Let me ask you a question:
Before the beginning of the season, how many of you expected the Thunder to be where they are going into the All-Star break?
I'll be the first to admit, I expected the Thunder would be good, but I didn't expect them to be THIS good.
The Thunder are sitting pretty at 30-21, good enough for sixth in the Western Conference, and are going into the break with a Thunder franchise-best six game win streak. Considering the Thunder only won 23 games last year, this season is already a success.
The Thunder also sport impressive team credentials such as the second best team free-throw percentage, the fifth best road record, and the fifth fewest points allowed per game.
In addition to All-Star reserve Kevin Durant and leading coach of the year candidate Scott Brooks, the Thunder are playing their best ball going into the break. Some of the reasons for the success this season include:
3rd quarter scoring differential : the ability of the Thunder to outscore their opponents in the third quarter has proven to be immensely beneficial, as the team has had this advantage in 32 games, leading to a record of 25-7 in these games.
Chemistry : the team is playing great together and have formed good cohesiveness, a significant factor to their success this season. It is imperative to keep this young team together, as this year has shown what this team can do.
Fellow Thunder contributor Casey Womack said the Thunder have the best chemistry in the league. I couldn't agree more.
Road record : As previously stated, the Thunder have the fifth best road record in the Association at 15-11. I stated in a previous article the success of the team on the road is crucial to their success, as it shows the true identity of a team.
By continuing the success away from home, the Thunder will be more comfortable down the stretch of the regular season and during the playoffs (should they make it) because the majority of games will be away from the Ford Center.
Along with the good, there are issues that need to be addressed. These include:
Losing close games : of the 21 losses the Thunder have, ten are by six points or less, including a stretch of eight straight losses by such a margin. A lot of these come down to late-game situations, when unfortunately the Thunder are unable to put the stamp on the game due to bad shooting, missed free throws, turnovers, etc. This is frustrating to watch, but it is a learning experience.
Losing large leads : The Thunder have had a tendency this season to get out to a double-digit lead, only to see the lead wither away towards the end of the game. The Thunder need to do a better job of maintaining these leads and play smarter basketball, and again this will come with time and experience.
Turnovers : the Thunder are tied for fourth in the league at 15.6 turnovers per game. Away from the stat sheet, the Thunder do have a tendency to play a little erratic at times, causing them to make silly mistakes. Sometimes, the Thunder need to take a smarter shot; other times, make a better pass. Regardless, this is an issue that needs to be corrected in the second half of the season.
All in all, the Thunder are performing well above expectations so far this season, and are looking forward to a great second half of the season.
The Western Conference hears something coming: it's the Thunder, and they better be on full alert of what this team will do in the second half of the season.