The Oklahoma City Thunder played just two games this week, losing to the Houston Rockets after staging a dramatic comeback, but beating the Boston Celtics after staging yet another comeback. Unfortunately, the loss to the Rockets ended the Thunder’s six game win streak, their longest so far this season.
THREE GOOD THINGS
Lineups. Against the Boston Celtics, Billy Donovan trotted out the little-used lineup of Semaj Christon, Alex Abrines, Kyle Singler, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Enes Kanter. Prior to Sunday’s game, that lineup had played a total of two minutes, posting a magnificent (sarcasm emoji) net rating of negative 39.4. But on Sunday, this lineup excelled, going on a 6-0 run to close the third quarter, cutting a 10-point deficit to 4. Then, in the opening minutes of the fourth, this group held serve until Westbrook checked back in with 8:45 to go. Way to go, guys!
Fourth quarters. Without getting into the whys or hows, the plain truth is that if the Thunder are in striking distance in the fourth quarter, they are one of the most dangerous teams in the league. This year, the Thunder rank as follows in the fourth: sixth in FG%, second in 3PT%, third net plus/minus, second in defensive rating, and fourth in net rating. Additionally, the Thunder have been in 17 “clutch” situations (neither team ahead by more than 5 with less than 5 minutes to go), tied for second most in the league. Among teams with 17 or more “clutch” games, the Thunder are the only team to have a winning record (11-6).
Rebound Russ. The obvious benefit of Westbrook collecting so many rebounds is his ability to quickly turn up the floor to create transition opportunities. This play is Exhibit A.
THREE NOT SO GOOD THINGS
One Man Show. Though it’s not really a surprise, Westbrook is shouldering an incredible load for the Thunder. Westbrook is directly responsible for about 56 points per game for the Thunder (points + points off a Westbrook assist), or over 52% of the Thunder’s points. He’s accumulated half of the Thunder’s assists. He’s scored nearly 30% of the Thunder’s points. He leads the league in usage by a wide margin. At some point, for the Thunder to maintain their current winning percentage, Westbrook will surely need at least a little help. At least I think so.
Open Threes. If it feels like the Thunder leave a lot of three-point shooters open, it’s because they leave a lot of three-point shooters open. In fact, the Thunder allow the fifth most wide-open three pointers in the league (when the closest defender is 6 feet or more away), allowing 12.4 per game. Fortunately, opponents shoot an unremarkable 38% on wide-open threes. Moreover, when the Thunder do defend the three, they opponents shoot poorly–against the Thunder, teams shoot just 33.5% from deep overall, the fourth-lowest percentage in the NBA.
Oladipo Falls. Considering the horrific nature of Victor Oladipo’s fall against the Boston Celtics, a sprained wrist seems like a minor miracle. Oladipo, however, did not practice with the team yesterday, and the team has yet to provide a timetable on his return.
ONE MORE THING
Triple Doubles. The most dominant story line this season in the NBA has been Westbrook’s chase for triple doubles. The story reached a fever pitch as Westbrook hit 7 in a row, but the streak came to a halt against the Celtics. Even still, Westbrook has had a triple double in half of the Thunder’s games and is on pace for 41 for the year. For some context, just once since 2008-09 has a player not-named Westbrook had 10 or more triple doubles in an entire season (Draymond Green, last year). Westbrook, on the other hand, has now accomplished the feat three years in a row. Only one other player in NBA history has had 10+ triple doubles in three consecutive seasons: Oscar Robertson.