Here’s how the Thunder’s last 17 games have gone: They either won by double-digits, or they lost. No close wins. If they won, it came by double-digits. Ten of those games went that way. An average margin of victory of 22.9 points.
If the Thunder lost — seven went that way — it was mostly a close game (one exception being the fourth quarter meltdown against the Jazz).
The last legitimately close game the Thunder won was Jan. 18 against the Mavericks, a 117-114 win in Dallas in overtime. KD’s 52-point game.
Basically, the Thunder are obliterating their opposition, or they’re losing close. What’s it all mean?
The seven losses:
- 121-118 (OT) to Denver
- 104-99 to Golden State
- 105-96 to the Lakers
- 115-110 to Cleveland
- 109-94 to Utah
- 110-100 to Miami
- 122-119 to Houston
The 10 wins:
- 109-97 over the Clippers
- 105-95 over Sacramento
- 106-89 over Memphis
- 112-91 over Dallas
- 119-98 over Golden State
- 127-96 over Phoenix
- 97-69 over Phoenix
- 127-111 over Minnesota
- 102-72 over Chicago
- 119-74 over New Orleans
Kind of weird, right?
I don’t really know what to make of it. There’s the obvious worry that the Thunder have forgotten how to win close games this season. This year, they’re 9-8 in games decided by six points or less. Which is pretty solid. But consider this: They started out 6-1 in games decided by six or less, but have gone 3-7 since. The only close wins they’ve had in the last two months really came against over the Mavs (111-105 OT), at Portland (87-83), and over Dallas again (117-114 OT). That’s it.
Is it a concern? Feasting, or starving. It’s most likely just a quirk of the season, but at the same time, you’re not going to be enjoying too many 30-point blowouts in the playoffs.
This sounds ridiculous, but I kind of wonder that because of these blowouts, if the Thunder aren’t experiencing enough close games. Considering the fact OKC has undergone a major overhaul in personnel this season, the more reps the better. Scott Brooks hasn’t settled on a go-to crunchtime lineup as he’s fluctuated between Kevin Martin and Thabo Sefolosha and big and small lineups.
So while over the last two months, there have been a lot of games where OKC has been close down the stretch and forced to execute, it’s happened with incredible inconsistency. And I wonder if when they find themselves in those situations — like against Houston last week — if it feels a bit foreign. Like they’re going, “OK, so how do we do this again? Just give it to Durant?”
With last night’s blowout, Durant and Westbrook have now sat 12 full fourth quarters this season. I don’t have the stats on that, but I’m assuming that’s right up there for any starter (exception: Andris Biedrins). And a lot of those have come in the last month or so.
You can earn stripes during the regular season, build crunchtime chops and confidence. The Thunder haven’t done a whole lot of that lately. The blowouts are nice because it’s creating rest for Russell Westbrook and Durant and others, and opportunities for Brooks to get looks at what he has on the end of his bench.
At the same time, there’s no better practice than a live situation, and when the Thunder are getting them, they’ve failed recently. It’s just odd to me. Especially because OKC has two of the absolute best clutch players in the world in Westbrook and Durant.
But as you know, the big question this season was crunchtime without James Harden. His reputation as a crunchtime piece for the Thunder has been a bit exaggerated, but he clearly was someone that was consistently on the court and unlike Martin, an obvious threat. Last season, in games decided by six or less, the Thunder went 12-10. Like this year, they experienced a bunch of ups and down. They won their first four two possession games, and even got up to 11-4. But finished the season just 1-6 in their last seven close ones.
Historically though, one of the great indicators of playoff success has been season margin of victory, not how teams have fared in tight games. And this season, the Thunder have the best point differential by far at +9.7, a full 1.5 points better than the next closest team (San Antonio).
So is there anything to read into here? Is it a sign of dominance? Does it show that they just lose focus, that they get bored? Does it show they have a crunchtime execution problem?
Honestly, I don’t know. But it is at least a little bit strange, right? #ExpertAnalysis