We’re 17 games in, which means roughly 20 percent of the NBA season is put away, which means some trends are starting to come to the surface. You know, like what’s working in wins versus losses. Those type of things.
Obviously, in wins, you play better. Everybody knows that. It’s why you won. You shot better or rebounded better or played better defense or your players played better. It’s no revelation that in losses your numbers go down and your best players probably didn’t play as well. Again, it’s why you lost.
But at the same time, it’s somewhat key to determine WHAT those things are you’re not doing as well. Because common sense says, correct those issues that are consistently rearing their heads in losses and you know, they turn to wins.
So here are a few developing themes:
In wins, Oklahoma City averages almost four assists more per game. The Thunder dish out almost 21 a game in Ws, and just 16.1 in losses. That’s most punctuated by Russell Westbrook who averages 7.9 helpers in wins and just five a game in losses. But here’s what that says to me: It’s not that Russ is necessarily worse in losses (though in some circumstances he has been), but more that he’s had to shoulder the load more because his teammates either weren’t knocking down shots or playing well. He’s averaged 16.6 points per game in Ws and 17.3 in Ls. Russ has had to pick up the scoring in some losses because things weren’t working (the first Houston game really sticks out in which Westbrook had 33).
Kevin Durant scores four fewer points a game in losses, Jeff Green four fewer and Nenad Krstic a full five fewer. That could be a combination of Westbrook not creating and setting up as well, or just that they aren’t knocking down their usual shots. Add those points they have in wins and Westbrook is averaging seven or eight assists a game in losses too. That’s the thing about assists – it’s a two part thing. It’s easy for people to see Westbrook’s numbers, but at the same time, if he makes a great drive and frees Krstic up for an open 20-footer and Krispy clangs it, whose fault is that?
In losses, turnovers are up by a three a game. This was an issue last year as well. Naturally when you’re losing you start forcing things and start trying harder to make plays. It’s desperation. Westbrook turns it over 3.1 times in wins and 4.4 in losses. Durant goes from 2.8 to 4.0. Thabo even goes up a full turnover more. Again, it’s kind of a natural tendency for any team, but taking care of the ball was an issue last year and it’s something the Thunder has done much, much better with this year, highlighted by just 11 turnovers against Milwaukee.
Accentuated by last night’s loss, 3-point shooting is far different in wins versus losses. In wins, OKC hits six Thunder moneyballs (copyright: Matt Pinto) and shoots 40 percent from deep. In losses, that goes to four treys and just 22.7 percent. The Thunder takes nearly three more a game in losses and again, that’s similar to turnovers. You’re desperate for points so you start chucking like George Costanza. Durant goes from 32 percent to 17. Green 33 to 23. Sefolosha 50 to 11 (!). Westbrook 50 to 15. It’s clearly an issue.
Along the same lines, OKC is eight percent lower from the field in losses. That pretty much explains the lower numbers for Durant, Green and Krstic, three of OKC’s top jumpshooters. Durant drops eight percent. Green almost nine. Krstic an astounding 20 percent. Westbrook holds true basically shooting the same percentage.
Nothing all that revolutionary, but I love looking at the splits that make one game different from another. What’s different for the team home from away? In Sunday games or Monday games? In games on three days rest versus two days? Sometimes it’s coincidence. Sometimes it’s a trend. It’s early in the season and some of these things can tighten up or change a bit. But as we watch a team that’s slowly turning into a potential playoff contender, it’s key to understand what’s working and what’s not. Then correct it. That’s why we (and by “we” I mean “Clay Bennett) pay Scott Brooks the medium sized bucks.