OKC fans get first glimpse of <i>real</i> Thunder team in win over Bucks
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Thunder made their home debut Tuesday night.
Yes, in December. A month after the season started.
Unofficially, of course, but really, hasn't this whole season been kind of unofficial until this past week? It counts, but it really didn't, because when your lineup features Ish Smith and Lance Thomas and other, names like that, you have to use quotation fingers to talk about the Thunder's record.
Everything comes with an asterisk when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are out of the lineup.
They were back together for the first time at home this season and while it's taken awhile, the Thunder looked like they were back to being a real team again.
Finally. Weird that's it taken a three-game sweep of the Eastern Conference to make it so, including Tuesday's 114-101 win over Milwaukee, but then again, this is what was supposed to happen. We're back to seeing the Thunder run over Eastern Conference bottom-feeders instead of hoping against hope, Thomas and Roberson can figure out a way to solve mighty Milwaukee.
November is a sad reminder of what could or might happen to the Thunder if they lose Kevin Durant and/or Russell Westbrook in the future. December is nothing of the sort.
"It's a team that's going to keep getting better," coach Scott Brooks said. "We should get better as the months go by."
Ya think? Winners of three in a row and now five-of-six, the Thunder are within three games of the No. 8 spot and within shouting distance of gaining enough momentum to be a contender in the Western Conference.
Sort of like we thought they would be back in October.
Durant had 23 points in almost 29 minutes. Westbrook had 28 points in 32 minutes and Reggie Jackson had 18 points off the bench. Impressive? Not really, but efficient and effective? Definitely. Just like we thought they would be back in in October.
"People are expecting us to back to playoff-type basketball," Durant said. "We're like any other team. We're trying to build and get better."
Yes, folks are expecting playoff basketball, but no, the Thunder aren't like any other team. They're 8-13, but are the rare team that isn't what its record says.
The season started in November for everybody else. It started the day Durant returned last week against New Orleans. And it becomes a real thing Thursday when Cleveland and LeBron James come to Oklahoma City.
And the Thunder are also the rare team that has a need to play with ultimate urgency this early in the season. That's what happens when November runs you down and leaves a hole to dig out of.
But the Thunder are back now. They looked familiar, too.
"I'm not going to say they've gotten better or worse," Milwaukee's Jared Dudley said. "They are who they are. You've got to deal with those two guys. They'll get in (to the playoffs). Trust me. They'll find a spot."
That's what people are expecting. That's what this team is more than capable of doing. No more asterisks. No more quotation fingers or excuses. The Thunder are supposed to win games, especially over bad Eastern Conference teams.
Just like we thought they would do back in October.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK
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