So, how much better can the Oklahoma City Thunder get now their big guns are back firing on the court? Answer: A lot. But then one of this season’s NBA title favourites couldn’t get much worse after their horrific start.
29th out of 30 in points scored at 92.3 per game. 29th in assists. No wonder even a victory over the abysmal 76ers was celebrated like a championship on Friday. It was just a sixth win to date.
With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in harness once more, OKC figures to start making massive leaps with the 3-17 Detroit Pistons likely to be cannon fodder when the Thunder travel to the Palace tonight.
For one, Detroit became Philadelphia’s second victim in a 108-101 home loss on Saturday. But Durant, who had 27 in his debut on Tuesday against New Orleans, was held to just 10 by the Sixers.
The reigning NBA MVP – who has now surely lost any hope of retaining that crown – will surely pick up the pace and challenge the scoring average of fellow All Star Westbrook who is notching 26.7 points since his own return from the sidelines.
The trick for Thunder coach Scott Brooks will be sustaining the kind of defence that has kept his side from falling completely off the playoff pace. If OKC can hold foes to around 94.1 points per night – their present level – and push up their offense to an attainable 103, then they can still expect to challenge for the top six in the West.
And to build up some momentum, the schedule gods have granted them a December that includes meetings with struggling Milwaukee, Minnesota, Charlotte and the Lakers.
They’re certain worth a look on the handicap of -12.5 in Detroit. And if Durant hits his stride, expect it to be the Thunder, now out to 12.00 for the title, starting to make some noise as we approach 2015.
Best bet: Go over 200.5 total points in Detroit - Oklahoma City at 2.45