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With big wins over contenders, the Thunder have officially arrived

With big wins over contenders, the Thunder have officially arrived

The Oklahoma City Thunder have arrived.

After playing in their maiden NBA Finals appearance 12 years ago, the team who drafted and played three future NBA MVPs together (Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook) has once again assembled a contender. This time, they're looking to remain competitive for years to come.

Considering how young the team is, it may seem that the Thunder are way ahead of schedule. They are the second-youngest team in the league but are playing with maturity way beyond their years.

OKC currently has a 23-9 record nearly halfway into the season, which is good for second-best in the Western Conference. They have won eight of their last nine games, beating juggernauts like the NBA-leading Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets (twice) during that stretch.

Against the Celtics, the Thunder had 34 assists on 48 made field goals, shooting above 50% from the field and 45% from the three-point land led by their young stars.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had another big-time performance with 36 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds to further enhance his MVP candidacy this season.

Jalen Williams helped close out the Celtics down the stretch. He put together crucial buckets in the fourth quarter, including a step-back jumper, dunk and contested floater in the lane, as well as two clutch free throws to ice the game.

When the Thunder are discussed, the focus is usually on the insane number of future first-round picks that Sam Presti has stockpiled. However, they deserve credit for what they are accomplishing this season and it's very possible that the Thunder will be a contender sooner than later.

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