- Tip Off: 5:00 PM PST
- Television: CSNBayHD, NBATV
Oklahoma City Thunder Team Profile
- Offensive Efficiency: 103.6 (9th in NBA)
- Defensive Efficiency: 96.8 (4th in NBA)
Scope the Opposition: Daily Thunder.
Preview: The Oklahoma City Thunder (10-3) are unquestionably one of the best teams in basketball. They are the proud owners of both a top-10 offense and defense, which is difficult to achieve.
Indeed, only four teams in the entire Association can make that claim (listed by record): San Antonio Spurs (13-2), Miami Heat (12-3), OKC Thunder (10-3) and the Golden State Warriors (8-6).
Some might be shocked to see the Warriors in this group but they should not. They have been great on both ends of the floor in 2013-14, but the combination of injuries and poor late-game execution has done them in through the early part of the schedule.
The Thunder on the other hand are what the Warriors are hoping to become. They are a talented bunch that plays with terrific synergy as a group given their collective experience.
Like most teams, they have issues that could potentially sidetrack them, but they do a great job of tuning out the noise. One of the problem areas many point to is Russell Westbrook’s ball domination (Insider).
It’s an intriguing dynamic because there is a sense that the former UCLA Bruin often holds back Kevin Durant’s game. And yet, in the 2013 playoffs, the Thunder were outclassed by the Memphis Grizzlies because they lacked a secondary playmaker due to Westbrook’s knee injury.
His return this season has been met with a bit of skepticism because he has been a little erratic. And yet, the dirty little secret is that RW is simply being, well RW. Daily Thunder’s Royce Young has the details:
Westbrook has struggled some though in coming back from injury, shaking off rust. Where it’s primarily showed is his finishing ability, where he’s been extremely inconsistent. But here’s a dirty little secret with Westbrook: He’s kind of an inconsistent basketball player in general. Look at his game logs from last season. They’re mixed with absolute brilliant performances, solid ones and avert-the-eyes kind of lines. What makes him so special is that regardless of his line, his competitive spirit and motivation are always present, which creates critical winning plays on both ends of the floor. Even in games where Westbrook is “bad,” he’s pretty good. Like against the Spurs on Wednesday.
In other words, the Thunder are great regardless of how Westbrook plays because he makes all the other pieces fit in his own way. His importance stands out late in games when OKC needs to score to maintain the pressure on the opposition.
The primary option is obviously Durant, but when defenses key in on him, it opens up the door for Westbrook to either score or get the ball to an open player. This explains why the Thunder own the third best clutch (clutch is defined as the last five minutes of the game with the scoring margin within five points) offense in the league per NBA.com.
And again, that’s where the Warriors want to get. They have the right mix of players to be truly good on both ends of the floor, but the one thing they are lacking right now is the ability to close out games.
The Dubs tend to place far too much emphasis on isolations when the score gets tight in the waning moments of the fourth quarter and as a result, it has cost them. Stephen Curry tries going for the jugular seemingly on every trip while Klay Thompson settles for low-percentage fade away jumpers against good defenders.
Golden State gets away from their usual offensive movement and gets stymied. This explains why they have by far the worst clutch offense in the league. Warriors fans will be quick to point out that the Dubs defeated the Thunder earlier this month with a last-second shot by Andre Iguodala and that is in fact accurate.
However, one must remember that the Warriors were leading 108-100 with five minutes left in the contest, but then were faced with a 15-8 Thunder run to close out the game.
They actually lost the lead but then reclaimed it on the final shot of the contest. The Warriors can certainly learn a few things from OKC and perhaps tonight even, they will get an opportunity to watch and observe, and then dish back.
Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at JM.Poulard@Warriorsworld.net.