After all that was said and written about the Thunder in the wake of the James Harden trade, most of which surmised the team took a step back, Oklahoma City can match its best start to a season with a win Wednesday night.
Should the Thunder knock off the Hornets inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, it will move to 18-4 and match last year's record mark through 22 games.
Additionally, a victory Wednesday would be the Thunder's ninth straight, matching the franchise's longest winning streak in the Oklahoma City era. The Thunder also won nine straight from Jan. 29 to Feb. 21, 2010.
“It's still early. We have a lot of basketball left,” coach Scott Brooks said. “We're playing good basketball, but it's always been our mindset that we still want to get better. That's not going to change.”
The near record-tying start doesn't just stand as proof the Thunder hasn't taken a step back, but it might also signify that Oklahoma City has gotten better.
The Thunder has won by an average margin of 9.5 points, the league's highest average point differential, and Oklahoma City is averaging a league-best 106 points. The team has scored at least 100 points in 12 straight games, which is another franchise record in the OKC era.
At the current .809 winning percentage, the Thunder is on pace to win 66 games, which would be a franchise record in any era.
“Last year we had a great year,” Brooks said. “We came up short from our goal; like a lot of teams' goal is to win a championship. This year, we're just working and seeing where it takes us. We know that we have a good team. We just want to continue to get better.”
A handful of “yeah, buts” can be spewed to discredit some of the Thunder's success.
For starters, Oklahoma City's schedule hasn't exactly brought the stiffest competition. The Thunder has played four of the five worst teams in the Eastern Conference, including 7-16 Detroit twice. Wednesday's meeting with the Hornets, the Western Conference's worst team at 5-14 prior to their game against Washington on Tuesday, will be the third time the Thunder has faced New Orleans this season. The second meeting took place while No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis was sidelined with an injury.
Finally, the Thunder has played 13 games at home and only eight on the road. By the end of the current five-game home stand, that ratio will be 16-to-8.
But to write off the Thunder's early season success using such excuses is to ignore the development that's been taking place. Individually and collectively, the Thunder has shown a great deal of growth both offensively and defensively.
Perhaps to the surprise of many, the Thunder has become the league's top offensive team even without Harden. Assists are up. Turnovers are down. And a better team-wide understanding of where to be on offense has helped lead to an impressive 49.1 percent shooting clip, the second best accuracy in the league.
“That's the thing that I'm excited about what we're doing offensively is we're really understanding spacing much better,” Brooks said. “It's taken many, many years of many hours of work.”
Thunder vs. Hornets
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37/HD 722, DirecTV 679, Dish, U-Verse 754/HD 1754).
Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM
Three things to know
* With a win against the Hornets, the Thunder will match its best start to a season since moving to Oklahoma City.
* The Hornets are coming off a home loss against Washington on Tuesday night.
* The Thunder is 2-0 against the Hornets this season, winning by 15 in the first game and 21 in the second meeting.