The Oklahoma City Thunder are playing their best basketball of the season and doing it against some traditionally strong competition.
The suddenly-surging Thunder look for their third straight victory over an opponent with a winning record on Sunday night when they host the Miami Heat.
After winning four games through the first two months of the season, Oklahoma City (8-33) has doubled that amount through eight games in 2009.
Its latest victory was an 89-79 decision at home over struggling Detroit on Friday, and came two nights after beating Utah 114-93 for the team’s first back-to-back wins since moving from Seattle. Each of the Thunder’s previous six victories came against clubs with losing records.
Though they still own of the NBA’s worst record, the Thunder also will try to win three straight for the first time since the SuperSonics had a season-high three-game run from Jan. 29-Feb. 2.
“We can’t be satisfied with these two wins that we just got. Yes, they were against good teams, but we can’t be satisfied,” Thunder forward Jeff Green said. “We’ve got to keep moving forward.”
That means trying to avoid a third consecutive loss to Miami (21-18), which beat the Thunder 105-99 at home on Dec. 6 for its sixth win in seven games over that franchise.
If Oklahoma City is able to continue its winning ways in this contest, it could be in good shape to continue its success on the road next week against Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers, a pair of teams along with the Thunder at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
“We’re excited about this nice little run that we’re playing. We’re playing good basketball,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, whose team is giving up nine fewer points over the last four contests than its 102.3 average allowed for the season.
“It feels good to win. The key is whether we win or we lose, the next day we still come back and work and try to get better.”
Kevin Durant is averaging 20.0 points in three games versus the Heat, but had 18 in last month’s meeting. The reigning rookie of the year had 32 points against Detroit, and is averaging 26.8 in his last five contests overall.
Known as a solid defensive presence, rookie Russell Westbrook turned offensive with 30 points and seven rebounds against the Heat last month. This time he could be asked to help do a better job trying to contain Miami’s Dwyane Wade.
Wade had 38 points and seven assists in the team’s last meeting giving him consecutive 30-plus efforts against the Thunder franchise.
“We understand Miami’s a good team,” Brooks told the Thunder’s official Web site. “They play extremely hard. They have one of the best players in the game, a guy who can win games on his own. He can take over games. But we’ve still got to come out with great energy and have a defensive mindset and we’ve been doing that the last few games, and hopefully we can continue.”
Averaging an league-leading 28.8 points per game, Wade had 29 on Saturday for the Heat, who fell to 3-3 on their franchise-long seven-game road trip after a 93-86 loss to Houston.