The Oklahoma City Thunder winning three games in a row shouldn’t make anyone raise their eyebrows. Kevin Durant with a triple double and especially Russell Westbrook more and more buying into the system that they should move the ball is the real revelation in the last few games.
A 107-94 win over the Atlanta Hawks is the third in a row for the Thunder, improving to 14-8. Durant finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Westbrook had 23 points with 10 assists, once again leading the team in shots (8-of-17) but not going out of his way to stand out. In this system, even a curbed Westbrook is going to get a lot of shots. Serge Ibaka finished with 23 points, and when the Thunder get him open so many times, they’re almost impossible to slow down.
The first 15 and maybe slightly more of the Billy Donovan era began with the same basketball we’ve seen from the Thunder for years, including last season which got Scott Brooks fired. But sometimes changing offensive systems takes time, and it seems that despite everything we hear about the Thunder players and them doing their utmost to seem bad an unaccessible to the media, they’re letting things get through and are buying into the preachings of a coach in his first NBA season.
Not everything is perfect. Kyle Singler has turned into a joke, and just might be the worst player in the NBA getting regular minutes, although being on the floor for just one in the win over the Hawks might suggest that Donovan has enough, or has been reading the Internet posts about him. Dion Waiters continues to be a player who has nothing to do with team basketball, and Kevin Durant is probably turning the ball over a bit too much.
But after a rough start, injuries and what not, the Thunder seem to be playing balanced, smart and the kind of basketball that’s been missing from their arsenal for years. This is still a team that might lean back on the scoring of Durant and Westbrook in a time of need, but they’re resisting the urge for the last few games, and the results show. The defense has held teams to 98 points or less in the last four games. A little bit more of this and the Thunder can be officially considered contenders in the West.