If there was any doubt the Thunder are built to take the measure of the best of the best in the National Basketball Association, yesterday’s set-to erased it. From the get-go, they blitzed the host Cavaliers with precision offense and smothering defense and effectively decided the match by the end of the first quarter. Even as a rally was mounted, the sense of purpose with which they approached the match exposed it as token at best.

Granted, the Cavaliers are nowhere near the same zip code as “good” of late. Including yesterday’s laugher, they have lost 10 of 14 matches, with their last two victories decided by a single possession. Considering the depth of their talent base, the presence of All-World LeBron James, and their accomplishments over the last three years, their flirtation with the bottom of the barrel speaks volumes of their lack of competitiveness. That said, they remained dangerous and capable of victory.

Which, in a nutshell, makes the Thunder’s latest triumph no less impressive. If nothing else, they have proven that they can take care of business. They get up for games against top-tier teams, unlike, yes, the Cavaliers, and stay focused enough to prevail against decided underdogs. They may have had a poor start, but their dramatic turnaround highlights the potential that counted them among favorites heading into their 2017-2018 campaign.

There’s still half the regular season to negotiate, but the Thunder are clearly well-oiled and ready for the playoffs. Yesterday, they schooled the Cavaliers with a balanced attack that had their Bug Three — and equally important Steven Adams — posting big numbers. Indeed, their recent success should serve as an abject lesson to their latest victims. There will always be time to change. Russell Westbrook and Company are clearly doing so for the better. James and his bunch? Not so much.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Basic Energy Corp.