Everything looked bright for the Oklahoma City Thunder seven games into the season.
The team rattled off six wins in seven games that put themselves in first place in the Western Conference, but four games later the Thunder saw its record of 6-1 tail off to 6-5, and finally got to win number seven after stopping a four-game losing streak when they won 105-103 against the Houston Rockets.
It almost felt like a must-win game Wednesday night against the Rockets.
Oklahoma City, finally, got off to a quick start when they lead 38-32 after the first quarter. But then the wheels began to turn in the second and third quarter when the Thunder faced issues of stopping Houston's offense, along with being unable to produce on the offensive side with Russell Westbrook on the bench.
But when head coach Billy Donovan put Westbrook back in the game in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City's offense began to perform -- along with playing fantastic defense.
The Thunder erased a five-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter and ultimately prevailed over the Rockets.
Granted, it's way too early to say games are 'must-win' at this point of the season -- especially with 70 games left on the schedule -- but when the best player on the team heads to the bench and the offense becomes stagnant, it does concern fans.
There are two problems the Thunder have experienced as of late. No defense and no contribution from the rest of the team not named Russell Westbrook.
First, with the defense, the Thunder gave up 112, 110, 119 and 104, respectively, during its four-game losing streak -- and if it weren't for its lockdown defense in the fourth quarter Wednesday night the Thunder could have given up close to 120 points.
The Thunder do not have the firepower offense like they did last year to compete with teams in an offensive contest. Just look what happened against the Warriors.
Second, Westbrook needs help from his teammates. Victor Oladipo has shown he has the capability to score 20 points a game but has been very inconsistent through 12 games.
Rookie power forward Domantas Sabonis has shown he can score down low in the post, as well as shoot the 3-point ball. But having to guard forwards such as Blake Griffin and Draymond Green, Sabonis has gotten into early foul trouble that has ruined his rhythm in a couple of games.
Then there's Steven Adams.
After watching Adams in the playoffs last season it looked like the Thunder finally had a center on its roster that could score the ball consistently. But after signing his 4-year contract extension, Oklahoma City hasn't seen much out of Adams on the offensive side.
According to basketball-reference.com, Adams is averaging 9.6 PPG, three points higher than his career average, but averaged over 10 PPG in last year's playoffs.
Ultimately, the Thunder need more out of Adams when it comes to scoring.
But moving forward the Thunder know it will take time to jell together because of how young the roster is. Not to mention they desperately need a backup point guard Cameron Payne back as soon as possible, who is recovering from foot surgery.
But don't panic yet Thunder fans. They won't win 55 games like last year with Kevin Durant, but they will compete in the Western Conference for a playoff spot. It will just take time.