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The rocky start and rough patches throughout this season had some people questioning how far this new-look Oklahoma City Thunder team could actually go. At practice on Wednesday, Carmelo Anthony reminded everyone that it’s not how you start, but how you finish, and this team was built to finish strong.

“I think the expectations were put on us,” Anthony said. “Of course we wanted to have a better record at this point in the season with the team that we have, but our expectations was to be the best team we could be with the understanding we have the opportunity to do something great.”

With the big moves the Thunder made this offseason, the spotlight has been on the trio of Melo, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George to see if they can live up to all the hype. Anthony in particular has raised some eyebrows on whether or not he can take it to the next level in the postseason.

This would be Melo’s first time to reach the playoffs after not making it the past four seasons, and he doesn’t want to keep repeating that cycle.

“Prior to that I made the playoffs every year since my rookie season,” he said. “To have that feeling and know what that feeling is like, and then to not have that feeling; you don’t want to experience that anymore. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come here to OKC because I saw the opportunity. I understand what we have. I understand what we’re capable of, so yes, it excites me to know that the last game of the season I start gearing up for another season, and not focusing on where my next vacation is going to be. It’s a different mentality.

“We have an opportunity to make a run in these playoffs and potentially play for a championship,” he continued. “That’s the goal. That’s the ultimate goal. Everything along the way, up until then, it was a little bit expected because it was something we put together so quickly. We had to make adjustments, and whenever you put something like that together, it’s going to take time for it to work. But this is a learning curve for all of us. I think in two weeks, a week and a half, two weeks, we continue to do what we do, take care of our business, and I think people will forget about the regular season and focus on the postseason.”

Oklahoma City is in the fifth spot in the Western Conference right now, but only one game separates them from the Minnesota Timberwolves in seventh. For Anthony, though, he doesn’t have any worries about possibly slipping out of contention.

“I think we’re confident enough to know that we’ll be there,” he said. “Where? We’ll see when that time comes, but I believe we’ll be there. It’s something we planned on doing when we put this team together. At the beginning of the season, this is what we were looking forward to. This is why we put this team together.”

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Autumn Mathews