After Sunday’s loss to the Suns in which the Thunder attempted 32 3-pointers, someone on Twitter asked an interesting question: How many more 3s do the Thunder take in losses then in wins?
(Answer: 21.1 in wins, 25.6 in losses.)
It’s not exactly unusual to take more 3s on average in a loss than in a win. When you’re down, you’re chucking more from deep trying to get back in the game. For example, other tops teams like the Heat (21.6 in wins, 23.4 in losses) take more when they’re down. But that’s not universal. The Clippers take more in wins (24.2) than in losses (22.6), as do the Pacers (19.4 in wins, 17.7 in losses). The Spurs, who the Thunder aspire to be, are remarkably consistent (21.1 in wins, 21.2 in losses), indicating they basically just play the way they play regardless of situation.
The Thunder though, have this terrible habit of getting carried away based on the other team’s style, and often getting caught up in the flow of the game. Because check this: In wins and losses, the Thunder average 8.2 makes per game from 3. It’s just when they lose, they get a little more carried away taking jumpers. In losses, they average fewer assists (19.5 to 22.7 in wins) and more turnovers (15.3 in wins, 16.5 in losses).
I also found this interesting: It’s no surprise the Thunder’s defense is worse in losses, but it’s significantly worse. When OKC loses, it allows 109.9 points per 100 possessions compared to 97.3 in wins. (Most every team suffers from the same problem the — the Spurs allow 96.1 in wins, 112.5 in losses.) But the point is, the Thunder don’t often lose when they play quality defense.
And I think that’s also tied to the way they play offensively. When the game gets open and loose, the Thunder play a bit more improvisationally (is that a word?) on offense, jacking more perimeter shots than usual.
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Again, you’re losing so you start taking deep shots. It’s why Durant takes 7.7 3s in losses and 5.4 in wins. But you do have to evaluate how you’re playing. Sunday’s game against the Suns was a perfect example of the Thunder losing their offensive balance and getting sucked into an up-and-down glorified pickup game. They got away from moving the ball, away from spacing, away from running clean sets and just started trying to make shots.
1. Kevin Durant
After topping Michael Jordan’s 25-point streak, Durant spoke plainly about it. “I don’t care about it,” he said. “I wish it was over.”
So… is the streak becoming a distraction? It’s not like Durant can just choose to score less than 25, because if he touches a basketball and gets 38 minutes, he can’t really help himself. But it is worth noting, in games where Durant scores at least 25, the Thunder are 47-17, compared to 8-4 when he doesn’t. The more Durant scores, the more the Thunder win.
During Durant’s 25-point streak, he’s actually averaged 34.8 points on 51.5/39.5/86.5 splits with 7.0 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He’s only had 13 of the 41 come with under 30 points, with 11 having more than 40.
KD might be sick of the 25-point talk, and now that he’s passed MJ, I could take it or leave it continuing. He’s unlikely to catch Wilt and nobody cares about passing Oscar Robertson’s 46-game run. But I will say this: Having this streak only helped further cement his forthcoming MVP, something he definitely wants.
2. Russell Westbrook
The team has its mysterious “plan” to manage Westbrook’s health, but isn’t it time to take the shackles off? Because guess what: The playoffs start in less than two weeks. I don’t think it’s a great idea to have Westbrook’s first 40-minute game coming in Game 1 against whoever it is the Thunder play.
He’s very clearly healthy and has his old athleticism and explosiveness. So let him go. The back-to-backs I understand because there’s no reason to chance things, and with the way they’re set up, OKC gets bad team mixed with a good one in the two remaining ones (Kings/Clippers, Pacers/Pelicans). The Thunder are running a risk of slipping to the three-seed, and while Westbrook’s health for the postseason is paramount, they also don’t want to be giving away their advantage.
3. Serge Ibaka
Speaking of wins and losses, my instinct told me that Ibaka was less involved in losses than in wins. But nope. He takes 12.1 shots in wins, 12.3 in losses. His usage rate dips a bit in losses (18.0 in wins, 17.1 in losses), but for the most part, Ibaka stays involved in the offense regardless of the result.
Another thought: How good was Ibaka in the back-to-back against the Spurs and Rockets? Two of the better games I’ve ever seen him put together, considering both ends of the floor. He absolutely commanded the paint against the Spurs, eliminated probably 10 buckets either through blocks, alterations or just straight intimidation. Against the Rockets, more of the same, but a high level offensive game with great activity on the glass.
4. Reggie Jackson
Last five games: 13.8 points on 53.2/41.2/92.3/ splits with 5.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists. Rounding back into maybe his best form of the season right in time for the postseason. Jackson is absolutely a playoff X-factor for the Thunder. The better he plays, the better the Thunder play. Jackson in wins shoots 46.5 percent from the floor, but 37.4 in losses. Pretty good snapshot right there.
5. Nick Collison
ESPN.com released a new stat — Real Plus-Minus (RPM) — which attempts to give a clearer picture of a player’s plus/minus without being influenced as much as to who he plays with. The example used was Reggie Jackson, who has a significantly better plus/minus when he’s playing with Kevin Durant, because duh. So RPM is trying to capture what a player’s plus/minus is on his own, if that makes sense.
And guess what: Nick Collison is still ranked ridiculously high. He’s sixth overall in the league in RPM, behind only LeBron James, Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki. Meaning Collison is ahead of Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan and Kevin Love.
6. Caron Butler
Last night against the Suns with 3:26 left in the fourth and OKC up 110-108, Butler found himself wide open in the right corner. An opportunity for an early dagger, to put the Thunder up five with three minutes left. Butler missed, and the Suns scored the next possession.
His time is still young in OKC, but it just feels like Butler hasn’t made anything in critical situations. In clutch time (last five minutes, margin within five), Butler is 0-6 with the Thunder — 0-4 from 3 — with zero points. He’s a player that’s been advertised as tough and one set up to hit big shots in big spots. Again, the sample size is slim of just 16 games, but I can already can see the future where he fails to knock down an open look in a big spot in the playoffs and we all wonder why he’s in the game.
7. Derek Fisher
8. Jeremy Lamb
It’s the same question I find myself asking almost weekly: What is it that Derek Fisher does better than Jeremy Lamb? I know that toughness is actually a thing, even if it’s annoying how much Scott Brooks cites it, but Lamb just seems like he can provide so many more options.
9. Steven Adams
He picked up his first DNP of the season against the Suns, which is kind of remarkable. With what the expectations for Adams were back in August to what he’s accomplished now, it’s been a terrific rookie season.
I was curious how his rookie year stacks up to a few other centers. Adams has appeared in 75 games, playing 14.9 minutes a game with 3.3 points and 4.2 rebounds. Roy Hibbert played in 70 games with 14.4 minutes a game his rookie season, averaging 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds. Joakim Noah played in 74 averaging 20.7 minutes with 6.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. Point isn’t to compare Adams to top level bigs, but remember: He’s only a rookie. Picture him four years from now after he’s developed in the Thunder’s system even more.
10. Andre Roberson
He’s supposed to be a defensive player in the Thabo mold, so how does he stack up? When Thabo is on the floor, the Thunder allow 101.5 points per 100 possessions. With Roberson — who of course the sample size is still very small — the Thunder allow 99.2.
11. Kendrick Perkins
Two games back, 25 total minutes played. Too early to really figure out how much having him back helps, though he did do a nice job on Tim Duncan in limited time.
12. Perry Jones III
Pretty clearly done being included in the regular rotation this season, but overall, I’d say this was a pretty positive season for Jones. Still think he may have a small part to play in the playoffs at some point, too.
13. Hasheem Thabeet
Inactives: Reggie Williams, Thabo Sefolosha