Thunder look to make it 7 straight against Pistons
- 76ers extend Simmons for $170M, 5 years
- Simmons backs out of World Cup
- Warriors GM Myers moves on from Durant
- Cavs waive G Smith after eventful tenure
- Ingram 'close' to normal after surgery
Stan Van Gundy anticipated that the Oklahoma City Thunder would become one of the Western Conference's elite teams.
The Pistons coach was amused when people questioned whether LeBron James could mesh his skills with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh when that trio joined forced in Miami.
He figured it was just a matter of time before Russell Westbook found ways to coexist with two other perennial All-Stars, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
"I've never seen a team where I thought in my 20-plus years in the league, they're not going to be very good because they've got too much talent," he said. "I've never seen that pan out."
The Thunder roll into Detroit on Saturday with a six-game winning streak. Oklahoma City has a 28-20 record, fifth best in the West. Westbrook, the league's reigning Most Valuable Player, poured in 36 points in the team's latest victory, a 121-112 triumph over Washington on Thursday.
"I try to keep attacking the basket, to find ways to get in the paint and make plays happen," Westbrook said.
George is averaging 27.3 points over the last three games, while Anthony has reached the 20-point mark in three of the last five games.
"We complement each other very well," George said of Westbrook. "I think we can both play off one another. I can attack and set him up and as you see, he does it vice versa. We have fun, we enjoy playing with one another."
Oklahoma City fueled its offense against Washington by forcing 23 turnovers, which it turned into 36 points.
"We've got a lot of scorers, a lot of guys who can put the ball in the basket," reserve guard Raymond Felton said. "So when our defense is at a high level, we're a tough team."
The Pistons looked a lot tougher when they defeated the Thunder 99-98 on the road Nov. 24. Detroit limited Oklahoma City to 39 second-half points.
Lately, the Pistons haven't been able to stop anyone, particularly in late-game situations. They have lost six straight to drop two games below .500.
In their last outing, the Pistons squandered a nine-point lead in the final three minutes of regulation and fell 98-95 in overtime to Utah on Wednesday.
"We're sort of in one of those stretches now, it's hard to get out of," Van Gundy said. "Everybody says you've been close, you just need one good game to get out of it. That's a vicious cycle."
Frustration is high but Van Gundy hasn't sensed any dissention or lack of resolve among his players.
"Their spirit, their competitiveness, their togetherness, all of that, their work habits here at practice, all really, really good," he said. "It's not like anybody's out there pouting or has given up on anything, which is encouraging. We just haven't been able to get a win and there have been some demoralizing (losses)."
Van Gundy tweaked his lineup last game, inserting Langston Galloway at point guard and moving Ish Smith to the bench. That was done, in part, to get more production from the reserves.
"We sort of lost that advantage and we're trying to regain that back," Van Gundy said.
Detroit small forward Reggie Bullock, who missed the Utah game with a thumb injury, practiced on Friday.
Updated January 26, 2018