Happy new year, Daily Thunder readers! Thanks for your support.
Yet again, the Oklahoma City Thunder played impressive clutch time minutes to walk-away with another close victory. Olivia Panchal has your recap of the Thunder’s win on New Year’s Eve against the Dallas Mavericks.
Erik Horne (The Athletic) details how the Thunder have become the league’s best closers. “That’s been the beauty of the Thunder’s growth this season. After starting the season as one of the worst teams in the league in close games, the Thunder are now the best. No team has won more games (15) with the score within five in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime than the Thunder have. Nothing is misleading or small-sample-based about what the Thunder are doing to opponents per 100 possessions in those pressure-packed minutes. Even counting a 0-4 start to the season in clutch games, a stretch where their defense was abysmal, the Thunder are outscoring opponents by 24.7 points per 100 possessions in a season-high 106 clutch minutes.”
Oklahoma City closed the decade by playing the best ball in the entire Western Conference in December:
Dennis Chambers (CBS Sports) lists Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as a winner this season, so far. “When Paul George was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers in the middle of the night amid the Kawhi Leonard drama this summer, the silver lining for Oklahoma City Thunder fans was always Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. A promising rookie season in L.A. has turned into a validating sophomore campaign for Sam Presti and Co., who banked on SGA’s progression enough to make him the centerpiece return of the George trade. This past week, all of his electrifying skills were on display, beginning to beg the questions about where just might Gilgeous-Alexander rank among the league’s top young players?”
Dan Favale (Bleacher Report) compiled an excellent look back at every NBA team’s signature moment of the decade and there were several options for OKC, most of them on the sad side. “Injuries did more damage to their [the Thunder’s] post-Harden window than anything else, that first season without him included. ‘I think the James Harden trade was a huge catalyst for the organization, but maybe even more significant was Patrick Beverly diving into Westbrook’s knees in the 2013 playoffs,’ Daily Thunder’s John Napier noted. ‘The Thunder were historically good, the season after trading Harden, and legitimately had aspirations of a championship. History is written very differently if Westbrook stays healthy.'”
Michael Lee (The Athletic) discusses the NBA’s biggest surprises over the last ten years, and the Golden State Warriors becoming what the Thunder were supposed to be (including acquiring Kevin Durant) was among the surprises. “The NBA had disappointing teams in the 2010s — the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers and the Lob City Era Clippers come to mind — but the Thunder is in its own unique category. Oklahoma City is the true “what-if” squad because it wasn’t undone by bad chemistry, bickering or underachieving. It simply was a should’ve been that never was. The Warriors, however, were a never-should’ve-been that just was.”
David Aldridge (The Athletic) lists a his selections for the biggest moments of the decade in the NBA, and a few Thunder moments made the cut. Durant’s iconic “you the real MVP” speech landed at no. 8, Russell Westbrook’s triple-double barrage in 2016-17 dropped at no. 6, and the Thunder’s trade of James Harden was at no. 4.
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