Wins have been hard to come by for the Thunder in the franchise’s first season in Oklahoma City after relocating from Seattle. Consecutive victories would be unprecedented.
The Thunder have a chance to put together their first winning streak Friday when they host a Denver Nuggets team they could not stop defensively last season.
Oklahoma City was expected to struggle after leaving the Pacific Northwest, and its 4-29 record is the NBA’s worst. The poor start cost coach P.J. Carlesimo his job Nov. 22.
Interim replacement Scott Brooks has managed to make the Thunder somewhat competitive despite a 3-17 mark since taking over. Eleven of Oklahoma City’s losses in that span came by single-digit margins after the Thunder had just three such defeats during the 1-12 start under Carlesimo.
Those small steps of progress continued Wednesday with a 107-100 victory over Golden State that snapped a five-game losing streak. Jeff Green scored 26 points and Kevin Durant added 25 and 10 rebounds for the Thunder, who scored 24 points off 20 turnovers by the Warriors.
“It’s all about hustle. When we play with that kind of energy on both ends of the court, we’re fun to coach,” Brooks said. “We have active hands, defensive hands, defensive thoughts and that’s what we need to continue to build on.
“It’s obviously a big win for all of us, fans included. They’re sticking with us, which is incredible. I’ve been around 17, 18 years in the league and you don’t see that. Players feel good about that and we all appreciate that.”
One of the reasons the Thunder have been more competitive is the improved play of Durant, who appears to be coming into his own in his second season. All five of his double-doubles this season have come in the last 14 games, and he has scored at least 25 points in eight of the last nine games.
The No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft echoed Brooks’ call for a continued emphasis on defense.
“I think the best thing we did was we locked down on the defensive end,” Durant told the Thunder’s official Web site. “We helped each other out when they had mismatches. And the bigs did a great job of keeping their man in front of them, and we’ve got to continue to do that.
“It’s a long season, so we can turn this thing around.”
That commitment to defense will be tested by the Nuggets (21-12), who averaged a staggering 143.3 points in four games against the Thunder franchise last season while shooting 55.8 percent. One of those victories was a 168-116 pounding March 16, and Seattle’s lone win was a 151-147 double-overtime victory in the most recent meeting April 6.
While the Thunder continue to learn how to win, the Nuggets got back to their winning ways in Wednesday’s 114-107 victory at Toronto that was coach George Karl’s 900th. The win came after the Nuggets held a players-only meeting Tuesday following a 109-91 loss to Atlanta.
“It was helpful,” said Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups, who had 18 points and seven assists. “When you don’t have a lot of practice time, you’ve got to use those situations to get better. Even though you’re not physically our on the court, you get an understanding with guys, you get to hold people accountable in those meetings and talk about what’s going on, right or wrong. It was a good meeting.”
Carmelo Anthony averaged 28.0 points against the Thunder franchise last season. Teammate Kenyon Martin - currently scoring 12.4 per game - averaged 22.7 points in the last three games between the teams.