OKC Thunder earned season-shaping wins against the Lakers, Blazers

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder finished last week with a 2-1 record, in which they earned two wins that I would consider season-shaping wins for the team. The OKC Thunder have been hanging around the NBA play-in picture all season long and were mostly viewed as the pesky little brother that tags along to all your events, but you can not complain about it, or else your mom will tell you both to stay home.

The OKC Thunder earned season-defining wins on the road last week, topping the Lakers and the Trailblazers.

Last week, the youngest team in the NBA defined its season with two massive road wins. After going to L.A. with every star on the face of the earth in that historic building, and a 15-minute delay as they crowd the NBA’s new All-Time leading scorer, the Thunder weathered the storm of LeBron James’ greatness and a fire=y counterpunch by the Lakers after the ceremony to earn an emotional win on TNT.

Then, on Friday night, riding off the emotion of that win, plus the trade deadline which saw them ship off one of the most significant contributors to that Lakers win, Mike Muscala, the team responded with another impressive road win against the Blazers.

In that Blazers tilt, the Thunder got down by nine points two minutes into the fourth frame, and Mark Daigneault quickly inserted Shai Gilgeous-Alexander back into the lineup earlier than usual. As a result, the OKC Thunder rattled off a 33-9 run to secure the win.

SGA dropped a ho-hum 44 points on 16 shot attempts, a historic scoring night, leading to him being named the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday afternoon.

That win delivered the Thunder the tiebreaker over Portland in the nip-and-tuck Western Conference standings, which could pay dividends in the future.

If the season ended today, this pesky OKC Thunder squad would be in the NBA Play-in Tournament. This is not a small sample size. The only thing in the way of the Thunder and the NBA All-Star break is the shorthanded New Orleans Pelicans and the Houston Rockets, both games in the Paycom Center.

Since January 1st, the Oklahoma City Thunder rank first in points per game (123), 3-point percentage (41%), Offensive rating (121), field goals made per game (45.8), and points off turnovers (22).

The Oklahoma City Thunder have gone from a fun story to a legit name in contention for a play-in tournament. If you strip the names of the organizations off and only look at their resumes, who would you feel more confident in clinging to the final play-in spots than a team with Oklahoma City’s resume?

Think of the story of this season for OKC, the ups, the downs, the play you have seen, and replace Oklahoma City with Los Angeles, and pundits would be overjoyed to crown them. But, instead, there is hesitance to admit this team could make the postseason.

While no one has a crystal ball, I would again ask, who are you more confident in the list of contenders to leapfrog OKC and hold on to that final play-in spot? This team continues to impress, improve, and rest just one game below .500.

A game separates them from the 8th seed, and two games stand in the way of the sixth seed. While the same can be valid for the inverse, why not OKC? I think the road wins a week ago, and the fact Mark Daigneault played less than ten players over ten minutes in each tilt shows how the final 27 games will go.

Next. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander wins Player of the Week award. dark