Your Pregame Moment of Zen
The Thunder Outlook
Oklahoma City has had a strange, strange start to the season. We're 23 games into the season, and they've still got a negative point differential. In fact their differential (-0.1 pts/g) barely edges out those of Houston and Philadelphia. What does it mean? They've gotten lucky in a ton of close games. They squeezed by New Jersey by three in triple overtime. It took 'em an OT period to beat Indiana by a mere three points. They escaped with a one point win in Milwaukee earlier in the season, and this week, they edged Golden State by 5. Overall, the Thunder are 5-1 in games decided by 3 points or less, the most wins in the NBA in that category. Winning close games in the NBA has as much to do with luck as it does with skill; at this level, the top teams execute very similarly down the stretch.
OKC is easily a playoff team out West, but they haven't looked like the championship contender many predicted.
Their biggest issue? They simply can't shoot the ball. This year, the Thunder are hitting just 31.5% of their looks from beyond the arc. Most notably, Kevin Durant is hitting just 28% of his 5 threes per 36 minutes. Overall, only three teams have worse floor percentages (eFG) in the conference. While that will certainly even out a little bit, it's important to note that they didn't shoot very well last year either (12th in the conference, right ahead of the Clippers). Their big offensive strength has always been the ability to get to the foul line. They're first overall this year after finishing second last year. Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook average a combined 23.4 free throw attempts per game. The Hornets' entire team averages 23.7.
Of course, all this Thunder-bashing doesn't mean I'm predicting a Hornet win tonight. With our recent form, we could very easily be blown out by 20 again. The Hornets still have the best defensive efficiency in the conference, but only the Wolves, Clippers, and Kings play worse offense out West. As long as we continue battling ourselves, this team will remain maddeningly inconsistent.