Oklahoma City Thunder have the look of a dark horse West contender

NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

It’s time to pay attention to the Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder‘s surprise season has continued down in Orlando with a very convincing 110-94 victory over the Utah Jazz. In what was truly a dominant showing for the Thunder, they have begun to show that they might be the biggest dark horse contender in the Western Conference right now.

The win against the Jazz did the more than just show how good this Thunder team is, it also gave them an opportunity to move up in the West’s seeding. Currently holding the 6th seed in the West, it is now possible that the Thunder might move up to either the 3rd or 4th seed by the time their eight seeding games are over.

Just what is it about this Thunder team that is so good? It’s their teamwork and chemistry as a unit.

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After deciding to move on from longtime franchise cornerstone Russell Westbrook and All-NBA performer Paul George, Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City front office has great a more cohesive team.

Led by veteran acquisitions Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari while being supported by a young star like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and having remaining team infrastructure in players Steven Adams and Dennis Schroder, the Thunder has become a tough out.

Their first seeding game might just be the beginning too.

How the Oklahoma City Thunder dismantled the Utah Jazz

In their first real game action since the season ended, just before the Thunder were set to tip-off, they poetically played that very same Jazz team. The result was extremely one-sided.

What Oklahoma City did to beat the Jazz wasn’t anything new either. The team ran Billy Donovan’s system on both ends of the floor to perfection as they did all season and made sure that the Jazz didn’t get to build any momentum from the opening tip.

On defense, the Thunder did what they have done all season, bait their opponents into bad shots. The Jazz shot a putrid 39 percent for the game thanks to the Thunder forcing Utah’s players to take contested mid-range jumpers all game.

The result for the Jazz was their best player Donovan Mitchell going only 5-19 for the game with only 13 points while the rest of the Jazz failed to get anything going as well with Thunder only giving up bad shots.

When it came to the other side of the ball, the Thunder were able to ride their three-headed monster of guards to success with a heavy dosage of pick-and-rolls that the Jazz was not able to stop.

Specifically, guards Chris Paul and Shai Gilegous-Alexander gave the Jazz most of their fits. In pick-and-roll action, Paul would often find open shooters or resort to his patterned elbow jumper for quick scores. That resulted in the veteran floor general finishing the game with 18 points and seven assists.

Meanwhile, the younger Gilegous-Alexander played an attacking style driving to the paint off of screens and dishing out whenever the defense collapsed onto him. He finished his night with 19 points and six assists of his own.

That was the best part about the Thunder’s approach it was totally unselfish, while their opponent relied heavily on their star duo of Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, the Thunder used their unselfish guard play to net their entire team good shots.

The biggest beneficiary to this was the Thunder’s frontcourt. Danilo Gallinari scored 15 points thanks to assists from the team’s guards while Steven Adams scored 16 points of his own playing mostly as a roll-man off of the guards in the team’s offensive actions.

Why it’s important moving forward 

This was an important game for the Thunder even if the result didn’t indicate there was anything high stakes going on. The Utah Jazz currently holds the 4th seed, their a team that if the playoffs started now the Thunder would have to face, and realistically even if Oklahoma City moves up they could still match up with the Jazz.

The Thunder proved that they can handle a Jazz team who were originally viewed as a good matchup to the Thunder because both teams are built so similarly with a combination of multiple guards and a heavy pick-and-roll offense.

Winning a game against the Jazz so convincingly indicates that the Thunder might be moving up in the NBA tiers of contention. The Thunder may lack the star power that the Western Conference’s elite does, but they have undeniable chemistry.

If this Thunder team continues to run Billy Donovan’s system to perfection than they might become a very hard team to beat come playoff time. With some of the vulnerabilities that West’s top two seeds in the Lakers and Clippers have shown this game against the Jazz could just be the start to a run to the Western Conference Finals for Oklahoma City.

Next. Miami Heat impress vs. Nuggets, but true test is on the horizon. dark

Think about it, the Thunder’s guards are well equipped to handle the liable Lakers backcourt while their frontcourt is strong enough to frustrate a questionable Clippers interior. They might lack the star power but the Thunder are showing that they’re ready to bring a storm to Orlando.