OKLAHOMA CITY — A few signs the Thunder are reaching the next level?
Well, one, Oklahoma City’s fans are beginning to arrive fashionably late. Surely not as many that arrive fashionably late elsewhere, but there were empty seats throughout the first quarter in the lower level at Chesapeake Energy Arena Monday night. And don’t tell anybody, but some never got filled. Many left early, too.
Two, even for San Antonio, Western Conference royalty to be sure, fan involvement came in the form of eruption rather than the constant roar that accompanied last year’s trip to the NBA finals.
Three, and most important, the Thunder made the Spurs look old and slow and something akin to yesterday’s news in Tuesday night’s 107-93 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Even on a night Russell Westbrook made only 6 of 18 shots and Kevin Durant finished with 19 points, more than eight short of his average.
Indeed, the Thunder may be threatening to make all their chasers look like yesterday’s news.
It’s true, the schedule is only now entering its difficult phase, and the Spurs were without Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard and the season is long and Memphis did take a game from the Thunder, even in Oklahoma City, in November and if the Clippers are ever going to make people forget they’re the Clippers this may be the season.
Yet Oklahoma City moved to 20-4, more wins and fewer losses than the rest of the league, and two things about how the Thunder did it scream for everybody to take notice.
One, this was just the latest example of Serge Ibaka raising his ceiling as he went for 25 points, 17 rebounds and three blocked shots.
On a floor that included Durant, Westbrook, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, Ibaka was best, making 20-footers on one end of the floor and blocking shots on the other.