It was kind of a surreal feeling when the final buzzer sounded inside Chesapeake Energy Arena last night. To see fans hitting the exits early for the wrong reasons, to not hear that horrible Black Eyed Peas song as the final seconds ticked down, to watch the players mope their way into the tunnel with shame on their faces — not things we’ve seen in Oklahoma City this season.
You’re supposed to play better at home; that’s the whole idea of it. But the Thunder have been special on their own floor this season. Until Sunday that is, where their perfect 13-0 home record uncerimoniously ended. Let’s review:
- The Thunder won those 13 games by an average margin of 10.8 points, scoring 107.6 and allowing 95.2
- In December, though, the five wins came by an average of 14.8 points
- The Thunder allowed just 95.3 points per 100 possessions
- The home streak included wins over the Suns, the Mavs, the Nuggets, the Clippers, the Spurs, the Warriors and the Pacers
- The Thunder went 9-0 against the West, and 4-0 against the East
What we learned from it: Winning home court in the West would be a big deal for OKC. The Thunder’s home record the past few seasons has been no fluke. They take the home-floor-as-a-fortress idea very seriously. The Thunder are still really good on the road, which is what makes them an elite team, but the ability to go to another level on your own court can be powerful. A shame to see it end at just 13 on Sunday, but hey, they can still tie for the greatest home record in NBA history (40-1). Just no margin for error anymore.
1. Russell Westbrook (last week: 2)
He’s on a tear. His averages last week (four games): 24.7 points on 55 percent shooting, 7.0 rebounds and 7.7 assists.
Something to remain keeping an eye on though: The Thunder are allowing almost 10 points per 100 possessions more with Westbrook on the floor than when he sits. That’s bad. And if you assumed that’s just a starting lineup issue, it’s not because Perk and Thabo’s on/off ratings are really close.
2. Kevin Durant (last week: 1)
Regression to the mean is real, and it’s very cruel.
After having a four-game stretch where he was averaging 30+ points on 60-65-90 shooting splits, Durant’s last two games were miserable, at least by his standards. He went a combined 11-30 (36.6 percent) from the floor, 4-11 from 3 (36.3 percent), averaged *just* 20.5 points and had six assists to nine turnovers.
I’m not ready to admit Kevin Durant can be human, but maybe he’s not quite a deity. He’s more like Thor right now — half and half.
3. Reggie Jackson (last week: 3)
In December, Jackson has had only two games in which he didn’t score in double-figures. The Thunder lost one of them. The other four Thunder losses? Jackson scored in single-digits in two of them. The Thunder haven’t lost yet when he’s scored more than 12 points.
His game Sunday was easily the worst of his season, and maybe a necessary one. Jackson has been playing brilliantly, but he’s still an unfinished product. He’s gotten a little loose with the ball recently (six turnovers against Chicago, three against Toronto), and he seemed to let the frustration of his poor shooting night get to him a little Sunday.
Still, his December has been special and he’s starting to have the look of being a difference-maker for this Thunder team. With him as a powerful bench scorer and creator, the Thunder have that second unit punch they crave.
4. Serge Ibaka (last week: 4)
Here’s somewhat of an odd trend — Home against the Magic, Ibaka four points, two rebounds. Road against the Nuggets: 17 points, 10 rebounds. Home against the Bulls: five points, three rebounds. Road against the Spurs: 14 points, 14 rebounds. Home against the Raptors: nine points, six rebounds. My first grade math class taught me that that’s a pattern.
5. Nick Collison (last week: 9)
He’s officially overtaken Reggie Jackson as OKC’s most impactful on/off court player. With Collison on the floor, the Thunder are 110.9 points per 100 possessions and allowing just 93.7 for a net rating of +17.2. With him off the court, OKC scored 103.4 points per 100 and allows 100.1.
6. Steven Adams (last week: 6)
You can see the improvements he’s making basically game-by-game on the defensive end. Overall, he has a very solid defensive rating of 99.1, but the last 20 games it’s 97.8. The last 15 games it’s 95.1. The last 10 games it’s 90.7. The last five games it’s 87.6.
He’s consistently in the right spot at the right time a whole lot more and he’s getting out of an early habit he had to linger on the ball too long while hedging on a pick-and-roll. He’s doing a much better job of showing, letting his help rotate to pick up his roll man, then recovering back into position. And you can see he’s playing much more instinctively, with a lot more feel and a lot less thinking.
His numbers aren’t necessarily popping — 2.9 points, 4.5 rebounds in 14.3 minutes in December — but he’s getting better. And really, I think the biggest thing holding him back is going to be a lack of court time. Some nights matchups dictate otherwise, but he needs close to 20 minutes a game. Obviously there’s a big scowly thing standing in his way, so nothing is going to change until there’s a change. But the important thing is this: Adams is getting better.
7. Jeremy Lamb (last week: 5)
This was in the Bolts today, but some great numbers (albeit two games old) on Lamb, via Michael Pina:
“Lamb is also averaging 0.39 points per touch, which is 11th best in the league out of all players who’ve appeared in at least 15 games, slightly better than high usage stars like James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James, and some of the league’s better offensive role players, like Wesley Matthews and Jamal Crawford).”
“Lamb is the 2nd most efficient pick-and-roll ball-handler in the entire league, averaging 1.1 points per possession in just over 30 opportunities.”
Small sample size numbers, but they certain confirm a lot of what we’ve been seeing from him so far this season. Lamb’s ability in the two-man game is top level, and it’s getting to point where I want to see him as the handler in screen-and-rolls late in games.
8. Perry Jones (last week: 8)
Scott Brooks described Jones as his “utility defender” after Sunday’s game. I part like that, part hate it. I like it because Jones does appear to have a ton of versatility on the defensive end, from being able to play a stretch 4 to even shrinking down to chase around 2-guards. He has the ability to be incredibly disruptive, creating problems all over for opposing offenses.
I don’t like it because that makes it seem like Jones is merely a situational player, and that his value is more defensively than offensively. Obviously both ends are really important, but Jones has been a highly effective player on the offensive end. He’s active on the offensive boards, he can knock down corner 3s, he’s good in the midrange, his explosive in transition and he’s an easy lob target.
He needs to play more than just every four games.
9. Thabo Sefolosha (last week: 11)
10. Derek Fisher (last week: 12)
Something I never thought I’d ask: At this present moment, what more does Thabo add than Fisher? Don’t get me wrong, if I’m picking who plays 30 minutes in a game, I go Thabo every single time, but with the way Brooks is using him, Thabo’s being minimized. Maybe it’s a slow thing because of the recent knee sprain, but hasn’t played more than 30 minutes in a game since Nov. 29. Last night, Fisher played 18, Thabo played 18. And Thabo didn’t see any court time in the fourth quarter.
With the way he’s shooting the ball, would the Thunder really miss his impact too much if Lamb was getting all of those minutes?
11. Kendrick Perkins (last week: 10)
Theory: Scott Brooks keeps Kendrick Perkins in the starting lineup and rotation just as a teaching tool to reinforce good habits to his team. It constantly amazes me how Westbrook, Durant and others consistently make the “right” play to feed Perk on a pocket pass or slip to the bucket despite it often not ending well. It’s incredible. But maybe that’s Brooks’ twisted genius plan. If you can continue to build good habits to pass to the open man, even when it’s Perk, it’ll pay larger dividends down the road.
(Note: I don’t think I am serious with this theory.)
12. Hasheem Thabeet (last week: 13)
One thing I enjoy about Thabeet? He is always happy. Always.
13. Ryan Gomes (last week: 14)
Be honest: How many times have you forgotten that he’s on the team?
14. Andre Roberson (last week: 7)
From starter to the Gatorade bucket’s best friend all in a week.