In two recent games on the road against the LA Clippers, one of the Western Conference’s best, the Thunder got down big in the first quarter. Against a veteran, All-Star-laden team, it would have been easy to let the game slip away completely in the second half. That wasn’t the case. In both games the Thunder outscored the Clippers in quarters two through four, digging in its heels and taking it possession by possession.
That was the spirit that led to the Thunder’s comeback from a 22-point third-quarter deficit in an overtime win over the Chicago Bulls. The Thunder is fostering a mentality of competitiveness for 48 minutes for the sake of competing, regardless of what the standings say, what the scoreboard says or what just happened on the previous possession. That mindset has clicked on the group level, but also with individual players.
“They always say next play mentality, but I did find myself a lot last year thinking about previous plays,” admitted Gilgeous-Alexander. “That’s one of the things that Coach Mark has been working on with me going into this new season – having the next play mentality no matter how the game is going, having a positive attitude and not wearing your emotions on your sleeve.”
Watering that ability to summon the exact same energy after a great play or a poor one and after a string of losses or a hot streak is what has made the Thunder, and Oklahoma City, places that are more than the sum of their parts.
“We’re not trying to build a resilient culture. We’re trying to continue a resilient culture,” said Daigneault. “That’s one of the things when the team came here that I know was a high priority – that the team’s resilience and spirit was matched to that of the city’s. There’s a lot that goes into playing here in this community and there’s a lot that goes into representing the logo. That’s what we’re trying to teach every single day.”