A Look Back At The Oklahoma City Thunder In The NBA Playoffs

Since the franchise relocation from Seattle to Oklahoma City, Thunder fans have been fortunate to watch some of the league’s best players compete for a championship in the postseason on a yearly basis.

Saturday, March 9th 2024, 5:06 pm

By: Drake Johnson


Since the franchise relocation from Seattle to Oklahoma City, Thunder fans have been fortunate to watch some of the league’s best players compete for a championship in the postseason on a yearly basis.

From the jump, a young OKC Thunder squad back in 2009-10 competed with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and the late Kobe Bryant in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Just two years later, they faced off against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

The first 12 seasons of Thunder basketball saw the team reach the postseason 10 times, a run of success that most NBA teams can only dream of.

Now, with the Thunder on the verge of a deep postseason run with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren, it’s time to refresh yourself on the OKC Thunder postseason history.

2008-2009

The inaugural season of OKC Thunder basketball was a rough one, 23-59 overall, but it was an improvement from the 20-62 record the Super Sonics endured in its last Seattle season.

The highlight of that season: Kevin Durant’s growth and rookie Russell Westbrook.

Kevin Durant vs. Lakers - Feb. 10, 2009Image Provided By: Associated Press

2009-2010

From 23 wins to 50 in one season, OKC snuck into the postseason as the eighth seed against top-ranked Los Angeles.

Thunder - Lakers - 2010 - NBA PlayoffsImage Provided By: Associated Press

Game 1 Lal 87, Okc 79
Game 2Lal 95, Okc 92
Game 3Okc 101, Lal 96
Game 4Okc 110, Lal 89
Game 5Lal 111, Okc 87
Game 6Lal 95, Okc 94


The young, electric trio of Durant, Westbrook and James Harden gave the Lakers their best punch, but they were eliminated in Game 6 (4-2).

Notable Moment: Lakers Pau Gasol hits a game-winning layup in Game 6.

2010-2011

The exponential growth of the OKC Thunder continued during the 2010-2011 season. Oklahoma City improved its record by five wins to 55-27, earning the fourth seed in the playoffs.

In the first round, OKC won its first playoff series as the Thunder 4-1 over the Denver Nuggets.

Game 1 Okc 107, Den 103
Game 2Okc 106, Den 89
Game 3Okc 97, Den 94
Game 4Den 104, Okc 101
Game 5Okc 100, Den 97


OKC advanced to face the eighth-seed Memphis Grizzlies, who knocked off top-ranked San Antonio in the first round. It was the first of three future times the squads would meet in the postseason.

In a hard-fought seven-game series, OKC defeated Memphis 4-3

Game 1 Mem 114, Okc 101
Game 2Okc 111, Mem 102
Game 3Mem 101, Okc 93
Game 4Okc 133, Mem 123
Game 5Okc 99, Mem 72
Game 6Mem 95, Okc 83
Game 7Okc 105, Mem 90


The Thunder moved on to the Western Conference Finals against the third-seed Dallas Mavericks with Dirk Nowitzki.

The future hall-of-famer posed too much for the inexperienced Thunder squad, who lost 4-1 in the series.

Game 1Dal 121, Okc 112
Game 2Okc 106, Dal 100
Game 3Dal 93, Okc 87
Game 4Dal 112, Okc 105
Game 5Dal 100, Okc 96


The Thunder lost all four games by single digits: 9, 6, 7 and 4.

2011-2012

The 2011-2012 season started on Christmas Day 2012, a 66-game season shortened due to an NBA lockout. OKC improved its win percentages for the third consecutive season (.610 in 2010, .671 in 2011, .712 in 2012)

The team finished 47-19 as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

OKC Thunder - Dallas Mavericks - 2012 NBA PlayoffsImage Provided By: Associated Press

Game 1 Okc 99, Dal 98
Game 2Okc 102, Dal 99
Game 3Okc 95, Dal 79
Game 4Okc 103, Dal 97


In the first round, OKC swept the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and got revenge for its loss in the conference finals the season before.

Notable Moment: James Harden scores 15 in the fourth quarter of Game 4 to eliminate the Mavericks.


In the second round, Oklahoma City cruised past the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1, only losing Game 3 by three points.

Game 1 Okc 119, Lal 90
Game 2Okc 77, Lal 75
Game 3Lal 99, Okc 96
Game 4Okc 103, Lal 100
Game 5Okc 106, Lal 90


Notable Moment: Westbrook's steal, flip shot and one in Game 5 sends Chesapeake into a frenzy.


The 2012 Western Conference Finals may be the most memorable in OKC Thunder history.

OKC had to get through the San Antonio Spurs, an experienced team with Greg Popovich at the helm and Tim Duncan as the star.

It started ugly, Oklahoma City lost both games in San Antonio and traveled back to Oklahoma City down 0-2. It looked like the Thunder were on the verge of elimination before they put it together, won Game 3 by 20 points and never looked back.

Game 1Sa 101, Okc 98
Game 2Sa 120, Okc 111
Game 3Okc 102, Sa 82
Game 4Okc 109, Sa 103
Game 5Okc 108, Sa 103
Game 6Okc 107, Sa 99


Oklahoma City went on to win Games 4, 5 and 6 to win the Western Conference and advance to the NBA Finals against Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat.

Oklahoma City would play host to NBA Finals game for the first time.

On June 12, 2012, the Heat and Thunder began the NBA Finals in then-Chesapeake Arena.

Durant scored 36, Westbrook scored 27 and the Thunder kept everyone other than LeBron in check, winning Game 1 105-94.

That was the only game won by Oklahoma City in that series.

Durant - Westbrook - Harden - 2012 NBA FinalsImage Provided By: Associated Press


The Heat strung off four-straight wins and closed the series out 121-106 in Game 5 on June 21, 2012.

Game 1 Okc 105, Mia 94
Game 2Mia 100, Okc 96
Game 3Mia 91, Okc 85
Game 4Mia 104, Okc 98
Game 5Mia 121, Okc 106


The future was still as bright as could be for Oklahoma City and nobody expected it would be the last time this team played in the NBA Finals.

Just before the start of the next season, Oklahoma City would trade James Harden to the Houston Rockets.

Notable Moment: Thunder steal Game 1 from the Miami Heat

2012-2013

Having the experience, the star power and a summer of focus, Oklahoma City was at its best during the 2012-2013 season.

Again, the team improved its record year-over-year, winning a team-record 60 games to claim the top seed in the Western Conference and earn its fourth-consecutive playoff appearance.

The road back to finals ended shorter than expected.

In Game 2 of the first round against the Houston Rockets, guard Patrick Beverly lunged for the ball as Russell Westbrook brought it past half-court.

He collided with Westbrook’s knee, tearing the star-guards Meniscus in the process and knocking him out for the season.

Oklahoma City wasn’t the same after that.

Game 1Okc 120, Hou 91
Game 2Okc 105, Hou 102
Game 3Okc 104, Hou 101
Game 4Hou 105, Okc 103
Game 5Hou 107, Okc 100
Game 6Okc 103, Hou 94


A 4-2 series win over the Rockets got them our of the first round, but another matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies was too much to overcome without Westbrook.

Notable Moment: Westbrook's knee injury.

OKC won the first game but ended up dropping four straight and being eliminated.

Game 1Okc 93, Mem 91
Game 2Mem 99, Okc 93
Game 3Mem 87, Okc 81
Game 4Mem 103, Okc 97
Game 5Mem 88, Okc 84


Notable Moment: Durant scores 35 points, ices Game 1 with a pair of jump shots late in the fourth.

2013-2014

The next season, Oklahoma City returned to form. They won 59 games (one less than the prior season) and were back in the playoffs as the No. 2 seed.

It was a revenge series against the Memphis Grizzlies and it wasn’t easy.

OKC took Game 1 easily but eventually saw itself facing elimination in Games 6 and 7.

Game 1Okc 100, Mem 86
Game 2Mem 111, Okc 105
Game 3Mem 98, Okc 95
Game 4Okc 92, Mem 89
Game 5Mem 100, Okc 99
Game 6Okc 104, Mem 84
Game 7Okc 120, Mem 109


This is where the playoff experience was beneficial.

In Game 6, Durant and Westbrook combined for 61 total points to force Game 7 where the duo nearly repeated the performance, combining for 60 points and a series win.

Notable Moment: Kendrick Perkins sends Game 2 to overtime with a last-second layup.


The Los Angeles Clippers, with former Sooner Blake Griffin and future OKC Thunder player Chris Paul, awaited the Thunder in the next round.

Game 5 will forever be remembered from this series.

In a tied series, the pivotal Game 5 saw Oklahoma City down 7 points with 49 seconds left and improbably coming back to win.

Game 1Lac 122, Okc 105
Game 2 Okc 112, Lac 101
Game 3Okc 118, Lac 112
Game 4Lac 101, Okc 99
Game 5Okc 105, Lac 104
Game 6Okc 104, Lac 98


A quick Durant 3, another driving bucket for Durant and a turnover in 30 seconds gave OKC the ball with seconds to spare, down just two points.

On that possession, Westbrook pulled up for three and was fouled by Chris Paul.

He went to the line and sunk all three clutch free throws that gave OKC the win after a Chris Paul turnover in the final possession.

It’s one of the more improbable moments in Thunder history.

Oklahoma City would win Game 6 and advance to the Western Conference Finals for the third time.

Notable Moment: Westbrook hits clutch free throws to cement comeback victory in Game 5.

The San Antonio Spurs were great in 2012 for that WCF matchup, but even better in 2014.

They had drafted an upcoming superstar named Kawhi Leonard, and his fit with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan made this team nearly unbeatable.

The Thunder still put up a fight.

Both games in San Antonio to open the series were lost, but OKC returned the favor to even the series in Oklahoma City.

San Antonio won again in Game 5, meaning the Thunder were facing elimination in Oklahoma City for Game 6.

Game 6 went into overtime, but the Thunder just didn’t have the depth to compete with San Antonio on that level.

Game 1Sa 122, Okc 105
Game 2Sa 112, Okc 77
Game 3Okc 106, Sa 97
Game 4Okc 105, Sa 92
Game 5Sa 117, Okc 89
Game 6Sa 112, Okc 107


OKC only had five bench points (from Derek Fisher) as Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka and Reggie Jackson all played over 44 minutes of game time. No Spurs player other than Kawhi played more than 39 minutes that game, and the bench scored 51 points.

Still, Oklahoma City pushed it to overtime as Loud City was ready to explode, but came up just short, 112-107.

Kevin Durant - Tim Duncan - May 31, 2014Image Provided By: Associated Press

It had now been two years since the team reached the finals and many were wondering if it was time for a roster shakeup.

Notable Moment: Westbrook scores 40 in Game 4 to even the series 2-2

2014-2015

This season didn’t help those narratives.

Not only did OKC regress, but it missed the playoffs.

Durant broke his foot just before the start of the season and missed the majority of the season. He started in only 27 games.

Kevin Durant at press conference following Jones Fracture Image Provided By: Associated Press

During that time, Westbrook broke his hand and missed several games as well and the team never was able to put it back together before the playoffs.

They finished ninth in the Western Conference and this was before the NBA Play-In Tournament, so no postseason for OKC this year.

2015-2016.

A return to contention and the NBA Playoffs were in store for 2016.

Oklahoma City finished the season 55-27 in a stacked conference that placed them as the No. 3 seed.

They made easy work of the aging Dallas Mavericks (4-1) and advanced to play a criminally underrated San Antonio Spurs team that won 67 games but they were overshadowed by the 73-win Golden State Warriors.

Game 1Okc 108, Dal 70
Game 2Dal 85, Okc 84
Game 3Okc 131, Dal 102
Game 4Okc 119, Dal 108
Game 5Okc 118, Dal 104


Down 2-1 after three games, OKC rallied and got revenge for its 2014 elimination at the hands of the Spurs and won, 4-2. To this day, this is the last playoff series win for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Game 1Sa 124, Okc 92
Game 2Okc 98, Sa 97
Game 3Sa 100, Okc 96
Game 4Okc 111, Sa 97
Game 5Okc 95, Sa 91
Game 6Okc 113, Sa 99


Notable Moment: Thunder come out on fire in Game 6 to close out the Spurs.

The fourth conference finals appearance in six seasons for OKC had their toughest opponent yet waiting for them: The Golden State Warriors.

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green had won an NBA-record 73 games (edging out Michael Jordan’s Bulls by 1 game) and were looking for another NBA championship.

OKC wasn’t fazed.

Game 1, the Thunder handed Golden State its 12th loss of the season 108-102, in Oakland.

The Warriors returned that favor in Game 2, winning 118-91.

The Thunder were on fire. Blowout wins in Games 3 and 4 had the world on notice that this might be the year to get over the hump and win a title. Leading the series 3-1, fans and players could taste another NBA Finals trip.

That didn’t happen.

Westbrook vs Warriors - Game 5, 2016 NBA PlayoffsImage Provided By: Associated Press

A blown 3-1 started in Game 5, where the Warriors won 120-11. That’s ok, fans said. It’s tough to win in Oakland. Game 6, in Oklahoma City, was where the team should close it out anyway. It was as must-win as a must-win game has ever been. And they nearly did it.

Leading by 8 entering the fourth quarter, Warriors guard Klay Thompson took matters into his own hands.

He hit a then-playoff record 11 3-pointers, scored 41 points (19 in the fourth) and snatched victory right out of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s hands. The Thunder lost 108-101 and in Game 7 lost 96-88.

Game 1Okc 108, Gs 102
Game 2 Gs 118, Okc 91
Game 3Okc 133, Gs 105
Game 4Okc 118, Gs 94
Game 5Gs 120, Okc 111
Game 6Gs 108, Okc 101
Game 7Gs 96, Okc 88


The Warriors became the 10th team in playoff history to overcome a 3-1 deficit, according to ESPN.

Just six weeks later, Thunder superstar Kevin Durant would join them in free agency.

Notable Moment(s): Game 6 Klay, Draymond Green kicking Steven Adams below the belt in Game 3.


2016-2017

It was the start of the Russel Westbrook era in Oklahoma City and he took over.

Westbrook averaged a triple-double that season without Durant, claiming the MVP award while leading OKC to a 47-35 record, good for sixth in the Western Conference.

They faced the Houston Rockets and former Thunder star James Harden in the postseason for the first time since his departure.

Westbrook - Harden - Game 4 2017 - NBA PlayoffsImage Provided By: Associated Press

It didn’t end well for Oklahoma City.

Game 1 Hou 118, Okc 87
Game 2 Hou 115, Okc 111
Game 3Okc 115, Hou 113
Game 4Hou 113, Okc 109
Game 5Hou 105, Okc 99


A Game 1 blowout had OKC ready for Game 2 but they still went home to Oklahoma City without a win in the series.

The Thunder stole Game 3 by two points, 115-113 then lost Game 4 and 5 by a combined 10 points.

Just like that, Westbrook’s MVP season was over.

Notable Moment: Down 4 with 20 seconds left in Game 4, Adams intentionally missed a free throw, rebounded it, passed to Westbrook and drained a three-pointer. It was sweet.


2017-2018

Oklahoma City knew it needed to make a move before this season and it did.

Thunder General Manager Sam Presti brought stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to play alongside the reigning MVP in hopes of another deep run at the playoffs.

It didn’t go as planned this year.

Game 1Okc 116, Utah 108
Game 2 Utah 102, Okc 95
Game 3Utah 115, Okc 102
Game 4Utah 113, Okc 96
Game 5Okc 107, Utah 99
Game 6Utah 96, Okc 91


A favorable draw in the first round as the four seed placed Oklahoma City against the Utah Jazz.

Westbrook vs. Utah Jazz - 2018 NBA PlayoffsImage Provided By: Associated Press

Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell and defensive anchor Rudy Gobert were a dynamic one-two punch that Oklahoma City couldn’t seem to overcome.

The Thunder took Game 1 by a score of 116-108 before dropping three straight to the Jazz.

Notable Moment: In Game 5, the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a 25-point deficit in the second half to fight off elimination and force a Game 6.


2018-2019

The following season, Oklahoma City let go of Carmelo Anthony and mainly used George, Westbrook, Adams and newcomer Dennis Schroder.

Paul George was in the MVP conversation as the Thunder won 49 games, good for only sixth place in the Western Conference playoffs.

That meant a series against the Portland Trail Blazers as the away team in the first round, but it was never competitive.

The Thunder dropped the first two games in Portland before taking Game 3 in Oklahoma City.

Westbrook scored 33 points and George scored 22 in Game 3 to earn the first win of the series but that would be the last.

In Game 4, the Thunder were beaten by 13 points and the team down 3-1 in the series headed back to Portland for Game 5. If you’re a Thunder fan, you know what happens next.

With six seconds on the clock all tied up at 115, All-Star guard Damian Lillard pulled up for a sidestep, 37-foot three-point shot with less than two seconds on the clock.

Paul George had a hand up, but Lillard drained it and sent Oklahoma City home in dramatic fashion.

Damian Lillard vs. Oklahoma City - April 2019Image Provided By: Associated Press

Many people believe the Thunder wouldn’t be where they are today if Lillard never hit that shot.

The Thunder were eliminated in the first round for the third consecutive season.

Notable Moment: Paul George said Lillard's game-winner was a “bad shot”.

Game 1Por 104, Okc 99
Game 2 Por 114, Okc 94
Game 3Okc 120, Por 108
Game 4Por 111, Okc 98
Game 5Por 118, Okc 115


2019-2020

In the middle of the night the summer before the season, Sam Presti pulled off a monumental trade with the Los Angeles Clippers involving Paul George.

With that, Oklahoma City acquired Shai Gilgeous-Alexander coming off his rookie season in California and a boatload of draft picks they’ve used to build the team they have today.

The 2019-2020 team was one of the favorites for Thunder fans.

They appreciated legend Chris Paul spending a year with the young guys, sharing his wisdom and giving it all for the city that hosted him as a member of the New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina.

Other players on that team included SGA, Danilo Gallinari, Terrance Ferguson, Steven Adams, Darius Bazley, Andre Robertson, dunk-contest champion Hamidou Diallo, Nerlens Noel, possible-returnee Mike Muscala and a young Lu Dort. They were a fun squad to watch, and they won games, too.

Despite COVID shutting down the league for several months, the Thunder still managed a 44-28 record and were the No. 5 seed for the playoffs.

That meant a playoff series in the bubble against the Houston Rockets. They had James Harden and Russell Westbrook on that team.

It was another dismal playoff performance to start the series for OKC. For the third time in four postseasons, the Thunder were down 0-2 in the first round. They lost by 15 and 13 those first two games, and Westbrook wasn’t even playing.

Oklahoma pulled out an overtime win in Game 3, with Gallinari, Schroder, Paul and Gilgeous-Alexander all scoring at least 20 points.

The Thunder tied the series in Game 4, then Westbrook returned in Game 5 but didn’t play much of a factor for Houston. It didn’t matter. A 34-point blowout loss meant OKC was facing elimination from here on out.

On August 31, 2020, OKC won 104-100 and forced Game 7.

The season came to a bitter end following a close 2-point loss in Game 7. A fun team that many wonder what could have been if the league never shutdown for COVID.

Lu Dort - James Harden - 2020 NBA Playoffs Image Provided By: Associated Press

Notable Moment: Lu Dort’s growth, 30-point Game 7 and Harden blocking his potential game-winner at the end.


2020-21, 2022-23, 2023,24

It was full-on rebuild time after the 2019-2020 season. The Thunder kept Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort, but nobody else remains from that team.

OKC won just 22 games the following season, then 24 the year after that.

In 2022-23, Presti and the fans could tell SGA was special and the team was building towards contention.

They finished 40-42 which was 10th in the Western Conference. Luckily, OKC qualified for the last spot in the NBA Play-In Tournament.

In the first round OKC beat the New Orleans Pelicans 123-118 and were just one more win away from reaching the postseason.

A matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves marked the end for OKC.

The final score was 120-95, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 22 points, Jalen Williams and Dort had 17 a piece.

The next season, rookie No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren would rejoin the Thunder after an injury sidelined him for the entire season.

2023-2024

The Oklahoma City Thunder finished the 2023-24 season as the top seed in the NBA's Western Conference.

With a record of 57-25, OKC edged out Minnesota and Denver for home-court advantage in the playoffs.

How far do you think they’ll go this postseason?

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