Stats & Info: Oklahoma City Thunder
The 4-Point Play looks at the four analytics-based storylines that will make you smarter when watching Wednesday’s game between the Oklahoma City Thunder (fifth in BPI) and the San Antonio Spurs (fourth in BPI) at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Our BPI gives the Spurs a 64 percent chance of winning:
1. Four players are scoring more than 25 points per 36 minutes (James Harden, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook). Westbrook leads them all in assist percentage (44 percent), defensive rebounding percentage (16 percent) and usage percentage (37 percent).
2. The Thunder have the seventh-best offense and the ninth-best defense in the NBA and have a 23 percent chance of getting to the second round of the playoffs.
3. Over the past 10 games, the Spurs have averaged 115 points per 100 possessions, 10 more than their season average of 105.
4. The Spurs have the second-best chance in the West of making the NBA Finals at 21 percent (the Golden State Warriors have a 44 percent chance of making the Finals).
Russell Westbrook continued his torrid season with another 30-point triple-double Friday night against the Hawks.
Westbrook joins elite company
With Friday's 36-point, 10-rebound, 14-assist outing, Westbrook racked up the ninth triple-double in his last 30 games. In the last 40 seasons, only Michael Jordan has compiled more in a 30-game period (12 in 1988-89), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Westbrook joins Jason Kidd, Magic Johnson and Fat Lever with nine in 30-game stretches.
This game also marked Westbrook's fifth 30-point triple-double this season. Over the last 30 seasons, only Michael Jordan has more in a season after putting together 10 such triple-doubles during the 1988-89 campaign. The only other players with at least five such games in a season in the last 30 years besides Westbrook and Jordan? LeBron James and Magic.
Westbrook's four 35-point triple-doubles are tied for the third most in a season in the last 50 years, according to Elias, behind only Oscar Robertson (six in 1966-67) and Jordan (five in 1988-89).
Westbrook's nine triple-doubles are three times as many as any other player has this season.
Westbrook without Durant
Westbrook has played 1,837 minutes this season and about 61 percent of those minutes have come without Kevin Durant on the floor (1,123). By comparison, Westbrook played just 3 percent of his total minutes without Durant on the floor last season (41 of 1,412).
The Thunder have outscored opponents by 9.3 points per 100 possessions with both Durant and Westbrook on the court but just 3.0 with only Westbrook in the lineup. Oklahoma City is 18-9 when both stars play but 16-11 with just Westbrook after Friday's win over the Hawks.
This season Westbrook has averaged 33.9 points per 36 minutes with Durant on the bench compared to 22.3 per 36 with Durant on the court. Westbrook's shot attempts also have increased from 18.8 to 25.2 per 36 minutes without Durant.
Payton also makes triple-double history
He has a way to go to match Westbrook's triple-double accomplishments, but Magic rookie Elfrid Payton made his own triple-double history on Friday by becoming the first Magic player ever to record triple-doubles in consecutive games.
Payton also became only the seventh rookie in NBA history with back-to-back triple-doubles, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and the first since Antoine Walker in 1996-97. Besides Walker, Payton joins a list that includes Jason Kidd, David Robinson, Magic Johnson, Alvan Adams and Oscar Robertson.
It was Westbrook’s 20th game with 30 or more points this season. He has scored at least 30 points in six of the last eight games he has played (and he surpassed 40 points in three of those).
Off target in early going, aggressive later
Westbrook missed seven of his first eight shots but made 11 of his final 19, finishing 12-of-27, including 5-of-8 in the fourth quarter.
He settled for jump shots in the first quarter (0-of-6 on jump shots) but was more aggressive the rest of the game.
His average shot distance was less than 4 feet in the fourth quarter, compared with nearly 17 feet in the first quarter.
In the final 9:14, the Thunder came from two points behind and outscored the Bulls 31-20. Westbrook, who re-entered the game with 9:14 left, scored or assisted on 22 of the 31 points.
The Thunder shot 55 percent (11-of-20) in that stretch compared with 29 percent (4-of-14) for the Bulls.
Accumulating impressive performances
Westbrook is averaging more than 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists per game in his last eight games. The only other player in NBA history to average 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in an eight-game span is Oscar Robertson, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
It was his sixth game this season with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, twice as many as any other NBA player. James Harden and LeBron James have three each.
Westbrook logged his 10th 20-point, 10-rebound game this season, twice as many as Eric Bledsoe, who has the second-most.
Bulls’ struggles against Thunder
Chicago's Tom Thibodeau has a career 2-7 coaching record against the Thunder, which -- according to Elias -- matches his worst against any NBA opponent. Thibodeau is also 2–7 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
1. Russell Westbrook continues to make his case for MVP. He is one of four players this season who have an assist percentage greater than 30 and a usage percentage greater than 30. (The others are LeBron James, James Harden and Dwyane Wade.) Westbrook has the highest assist percentage (44 percent; the next-closest is James at 37 percent) and usage percentage (38 percent; the next-closest is Wade at 34 percent) in this group and is the only one above 35 percent in both stats. Only one other player in NBA history (Wade in 2008-09) finished a season above 35 percent in both assist percentage and usage percentage.
2. The Thunder are the only team in the NBA besides the Golden State Warriors to have both an offense and defense that are at least two points better than average.
3. The Clippers have the best offense in the league at 6.1 points above average, but over the last 10 games, they are averaging six fewer points per 100 possessions than their season average.
4. The Clippers have a free throw attempt rate of 0.3, which is above the league average of 0.27. When the Clippers are not getting to the line, though, their offense stalls, and they struggle to win. The Clippers have won 45 percent of their games when they have a free throw attempt rate less than 0.2.
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAYRussell Westbrook has put up some impressive numbers recently.
Over his last six games, Russell Westbrook has five triple-doubles, and over the past month, he has accomplished many feats not seen in the NBA for a long time. Westbrook looks to continue his torrid streak Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). We take a look at how he's done it and if it has been good for the Thunder.
Westbrook's recent run has put him in the company of a number of NBA greats. Some of the more notable recent accomplishments:
On Feb. 27 against the Trail Blazers, Westbrook finished a historic February, joining Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average 30 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in a calendar month.
On March 4 against the Philadelphia 76ers, Westbrook became the third player in NBA history with back-to-back 40-point triple-doubles (Michael Jordan and Pete Maravich).
On Thursday against the Chicago Bulls, Westbrook became the fourth player in NBA history with 40 points, five rebounds and five assists in three straight games (Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Jordan).
And most recently, Sunday against the Toronto Raptors, Westbrook became the second player over the last 50 years to average 33 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists over any 10-game span (Jordan).
How is he doing it?
Over his last 10 games, nearly two-thirds of Westbrook’s possessions have come in transition or on pick-and-roll plays (36 percent transition, 30 percent pick-and-roll).
In that time, Westbrook is averaging 10.0 fast-break points per game, by far the most in the NBA (Stephen Curry is second at 7.2 per game). In fact, he's scored more fast-break points per game than three teams.
Westbrook isn't just scoring -- he's also creating points for teammates. This season, Westbrook leads the NBA with an average of 46.1 points created per game (combining points off assists and points scored). Since Feb. 1, he is averaging 56.1 points created per game, nearly nine more than the next-closest player, Wednesday night's opponent Chris Paul (47.2).
Over his last 10 games, Westbrook is averaging 24.4 points created on his assists alone. He is doing it by keeping it balanced across different areas of the court. He has 18 assists to the left or left-center, 76 to the middle, and 18 on the right or right-center.
The biggest beneficiary has been Serge Ibaka, who is averaging 8.8 points per game off Westbrook’s assists, and that doesn’t include free throws awarded after he has drawn a foul after a pass by Westbrook. Anthony Morrow is benefiting from beyond the arc: Of the 20 3-pointers Westbrook has assisted on, eight have been by Morrow.
Over the entire season, Westbrook is averaging an NBA-high 46.1 points created. Second is James Harden (44.6).
Is it helping the Thunder?
Although Westbrook's stats have been impressive, especially over his last six games, some of the underlying numbers have not been as great.
He’s shooting 42 percent from the field over that span and has been under 50 percent in all six games; he’s shooting 26 percent from the 3-point line.
His effective field goal percentage (which takes into account the increased value of 3-pointers) is 44 percent, which would rank as the sixth-worst in the NBA over the entire season.
Four of the six games have come against teams with winning records. The Thunder are 1-3 in those four games and 2-4 overall.
He has at least four turnovers in each of the six games; that’s tied for the second-longest streak in the NBA this season (tied with a streak of his own from earlier in the season).
Before these six games, Oklahoma City led New Orleans by two games for the No. 8 playoff seed in the Western Conference. The teams are tied (although the Thunder lead by percentage points).
With Westbrook on the court over these six games, the Thunder have been outscored by 24 points. With Westbrook off the court over these six games, the Thunder have outscored their opponents by 36 points.
Strong play continues
Westbrook has at least 40 points, five rebounds and five assists in each of his last three games. That is tied for the second-longest streak in NBA history; only Elgin Baylor had a longer streak.
No one in the NBA has more 40-point games than Westbrook this season. Since Feb. 1, he has five games with at least 40 points. The rest of the league has six combined. Westbrook became the first player in franchise history with three straight 40-point games.
Westbrook is averaging more points, rebounds and assists per game without Kevin Durant this season. The numbers he is generating over his last nine games without the reigning MVP would make Oscar Robertson proud. Westbrook is averaging a triple-double over that stretch: 35.0 points, 10.7 assists and 10.4 rebounds.
Westbrook scored more than half of his points when operating in a "one-man offense." He poured in 24 of his 43 points when starting the play behind the backcourt and finishing without passing. All five of his turnovers came when the offense included a pass.
Although he finished with 43 points, Westbrook struggled against E'Twaun Moore in the half court. He scored six points on 2-of-12 shooting and turned the ball over four times when guarded by Moore. Westbrook had 20 points and made 54 percent of his shots when guarded by the rest of the team.
Following his 49-point outburst Wednesday night, Westbrook overtook James Harden as the NBA scoring leader. He extended that lead Thursday night and now leads Harden by 0.45 points. If Westbrook wins this season's scoring title, it would mark only the second time in NBA history that one team had two different players lead the league in points per game in consecutive seasons. Hall of Famers Paul Arizon and Neil Johnston were the first to do so for the Philadelphia Warriors during the 1951-52 and 1952-53 seasons.
Westbrook has fully immersed himself into the MVP conversation. With Durant winning the award a season ago, they would join Bob Cousy and Bill Russell as the only set of teammates to be named MVP in consecutive seasons. The Celtics legends did so during the 1956-57 and 1957-58 seasons.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty ImagesRussell Westbrook delivers another big game in Kevin Durant's absence.
Westbrook recorded his league-leading sixth triple-double of the season (three more than the next player) and fourth straight, the longest streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight during the 1988-89 season. That is tied for the fourth-longest triple-double streak over the past 50 seasons. Wilt Chamberlain holds the record with nine straight during the 1967-68 season.
This is the second straight game in which Westbrook scored at least 40 points in a triple-double. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, only two other players accomplished that feat in NBA history: Michael Jordan and Pete Maravich.
His 49 points are tied with Larry Bird for the most in a triple-double over the past 30 seasons. He joins Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor as the only players with 49 points in a triple-double since 1963.
Westbrook has three triple-doubles this season in which he has scored at least 35 points. The rest of the NBA has combined to do so zero times.
Vince Carter is the only other player to post 45 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a game over the past 30 seasons. He did so as a member of the Nets in a win against the Wizards in 2007.
Wednesday night marked the fifth time this season in which Westbrook was the Thunder's outright leader in points, rebounds and assists. He is the league leader in that department and all five games have come since this great run began to start February.
Westbrook finished with 10 assists, his 15th double-digit assist game of the season. Those 10 assists resulted in 23 Thunder points. Add the 49 points he scored, and Westbrook was responsible for 72 of his team's 123 points. That is the second-most points he has contributed in a game this season.
No real surprise Westbrook posted a triple-double against the 76ers. Including Wednesday night, Philadelphia has allowed a league-leading nine triple-doubles over the past two seasons. Westbrook has two of the nine.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty ImagesReggie Jackson headlined a seven-player trade between the Pistons, Thunder and Jazz
From role player to starter
The Pistons now turn to Reggie Jackson as their starting point guard with Brandon Jennings out for the season with a leg injury. In 13 games as a starter with the Thunder this season, Jackson averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Jackson gives the Pistons a very good pick-and-roll option. Among the 57 players with at least 150 plays as the pick-and-roll ball handler this season, Jackson ranks fourth in the NBA with a 47.2 field goal percentage. The Pistons as a team are 25th in the league.
Both of the Pistons starting point guards this season distributed the ball at a high rate. Among players with 10 starts this season, Jennings ranked eighth in assist percentage (an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor) and D.J. Augustin ranked 11th. Jackson ranks one spot ahead of Augustin.
Augustin in for Jackson
Augustin replaces Jackson as Russell Westbrook's backup in Oklahoma City. He is averaging 10.6 points and 4.9 assists per game this season but is capable of putting up bigger numbers. As the Pistons starter over their last 10 games, he averaged 20.3 points and 8.2 assists per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the floor and 43.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Another option on offense
The Thunder typically don't get too much offensive production out of their centers. Kendrick Perkins averaged four points per game with the Thunder this season and Steven Adams is at 7.4 points per game.
Kanter is averaging a career-high 13.8 points per game this season and ranks eighth among centers. He is converting on 59 percent of his shots in the paint and averaging a career-high 4.4 makes per game.
Singler and Novak should give the Thunder a boost from beyond the arc. Oklahoma City ranks 25th in the league in three-point percentage. Singler is shooting a career-high 40.6 percent from deep and in limited minutes, Novak has converted on 16 of his 33 three-point attempts this season. His 48.5 three-point field goal percentage would rank second in the NBA if he qualified for that leaderboard.
Kyle Terada/USA TodayThe Warriors, led by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, have the NBA's best record.
With the first half of the NBA season over, recent history says we can narrow the pick for NBA champion to three teams.
Each of the past seven NBA champions reached the All-Star break with a win percentage of .700 or better. Three teams have a .700 win percentage this season: the Warriors (.824), Hawks (.796) and Grizzlies (.736).
The last team to win the NBA title with a winning percentage below .700 at the All-Star break was the 2006-07 Spurs, who were 35-18 (.660) at the break.
Four teams chasing franchise records for wins
The 42-win Warriors have the best record at the All-Star break for the third time in franchise history, the first time since 1975-76. They are one of four teams in range of breaking their franchise record for victories (Golden State's team record is 59).
The others are the Hawks (43 wins), who won 57 in 1986-87 and 1993-94; the 39-win Grizzlies, who won 56 games in 2012-13; and the 36-win Raptors, who set a franchise record last season with 48 victories.
The Raptors are the only current NBA franchise that has never won 50 games in a season, and they are in striking distance of getting off that list this season. ESPN's Basketball Power Index projects the Raptors to win 54 games this season.
The race for eighth in the West
• According to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, the Thunder have more than a 73 percent chance to make the postseason, compared with 17 percent for the Suns and 12 percent for the Pelicans (the Suns lead the Thunder by a half-game for the eighth spot). Oklahoma City has not held one of the top eight spots in the Western Conference since it lost its season opener.
• The Thunder are trying to become the first Western Conference team to reach the playoffs after starting 3-12 or worse since the 1996-97 Suns.
• According to NBA BPI strength of schedule, the Thunder have the easiest remaining schedule among the top 10 teams in the Western Conference. The Suns have the sixth-toughest slate in the league overall.
• If the Thunder miss the postseason, Kevin Durant will become the third reigning MVP to miss the postseason in NBA history, not counting players who either retired or missed the entire next season because of injury.
Did you know?
• Russell Westbrook is averaging 25.8 points, 7.6 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game. The only players in NBA history to average those numbers for an entire season: LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson.
• James Harden is on pace to join Dwyane Wade, James, Jordan and Rick Barry as the only players to average 27 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals per game in a season. Harden also leads the NBA in win shares this season.
• The Warriors lead the league in defensive efficiency and pace. No team in the past 30 seasons has finished the season leading the NBA in both categories. Golden State ranks second in offensive efficiency behind the Clippers.
• Anthony Davis is having the second-best season in NBA history in terms of PER. Davis' 31.8 PER would be the second-best single-season total in NBA history were he to finish the season with that number.
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsRussell Westbrook has the Thunder on the edge of the West playoff picture.
It took them 53 games, but for the first time all season the Oklahoma City Thunder are three games over .500 after their 105-89 win over the Grizzlies Wednesday night.
More importantly, the Thunder moved within a half game of the idle Phoenix Suns for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference following their fifth win in six games. That's the closest the Thunder have been to the West's top eight since Dec. 20. Oklahoma City has not owned one of the West's eight best records since losing its season opener.
It's been a steady climb up the standings for the Thunder, who started 3-12 as they weathered injuries suffered by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Thunder could become the first West team to start 3-12 or worse and make the playoffs since the 1996-97 Suns opened 1-14.
The Thunder's improved play has largely been a product of health. After all, Oklahoma City is 17-9 this season when both Durant and Westbrook are in the lineup. That .654 win percentage would put them in the range of the fifth-seeded Mavericks if the Thunder had played that well all season. The team is 4-10 when neither star plays and 7-6 when Westbrook plays but not Durant.
Entering the day, the Thunder had a 64 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index as BPI ranks the Thunder as the NBA's 7th-best team. However, BPI expects Oklahoma City to stay at the bottom of the playoff picture as the Thunder have a 49 percent chance to finish eighth, an 11 percent chance to end up seventh and a four percent chance to earn a top-six seed.
Top stats to know from the Thunder's win
• Westbrook was 15-of-15 from the free throw line, tying his career high for most free throws without a miss in a game. He made 13 free throws without a miss in a half for the 2nd time this season, something no other NBA player has done all year.
• After recording 24 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in Wednesday's win, Westbrook is averaging 31.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 9.0 assists over his last six games. That has coincided with Oklahoma City's 5-1 stretch.
• Since moving to Oklahoma City before the 2008-09 season, the Thunder are 57-1 when leading by at least 15 points at halftime, including Wednesday's victory.
Here are the top things to know about their remarkable performances:
• Davis finished with 41 points, 10 rebounds and his first career game-winning buzzer-beater. He is the only player over the last 10 seasons with at least 40 points, 10 rebounds and a game-winning buzzer-beater.
• The game-winner was Davis' first made 3-pointer since March 3, 2014, and only the third of his career in 24 attempts. Entering Friday, he had missed 11 straight 3-pointers, including all eight this season.
• Davis is the only player with multiple 40-and-10 games this season. He is now tied with David West for the most 40-and-10 games in Pelicans/Hornets franchise history with three.
• According to Elias, Davis has scored at least 20 points in 13 straight games, setting a record for the most consecutive 20-point games by a player on a team from New Orleans. The record was previously held by Pete Maravich who had 12 straight 20-point games with the New Orleans Jazz in 1976-77.
• Westbrook finished with a career-high 48 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. According to Elias, he is the third player in NBA history to reach each of those totals in a loss, joining Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain.
• Add Westbrook's four steals to the equation and he joins Larry Bird as the only players with 48 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds and four steals in a game over the last 30 seasons.
• Westbrook has scored at least 45 points in each of his last two games against the Pelicans. According to Elias, he joins Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor as the only players in NBA history with 45 points in consecutive games against the same opponent.
• Westbrook is the fourth player in NBA history with at least 45 points, five rebounds and five assists in back-to-back games. He joins Kobe Bryant, Chamberlain and Baylor.
• Westbrook made all 15 of his free throws, including his last three to tie the game before Davis' game-winner. That is his most makes without a miss in a game in his career.
• Friday marked the fifth time in the last 25 seasons that opposing players had 40-point double-doubles. Westbrook and Kevin Durant were involved in each of the last three.
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsThe Thunder are a vastly different team with both Westbrook and Durant on the floor.
When Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook missed the majority of November while Oklahoma City slumped to the bottom of the Western Conference, it appeared the Thunder would be fighting for their playoff lives the rest of the season.
However, once their stars returned at the beginning of December, the Thunder quickly resumed their place as an elite team in the Western Conference, albeit one with a deficit in the standings.
How big of a difference have Durant and Westbrook made, and where do the Thunder stand in their playoff push?
The Durant and Westbrook Effect
When the Thunder don’t have both Durant and Westbrook in the lineup, they are just 6-14, a .300 winning percentage that would put their record in the area of the Lakers and Jazz as one of the worst teams in the West. But the Thunder have won seven of the nine games in which both stars have played, and one of the losses came on the road against the 23-4 Warriors when Durant missed the second half.
Overall, the Thunder have averaged 14 points higher in the games both stars have played and shot almost five percentage points better from the floor.
The Dynamic Duo
Durant and Westbrook have shared the floor for almost 200 minutes this season, and the Thunder have outscored opponents by 16.6 points per 100 possessions in that time while shooting 49 percent.
The Thunder have also pushed the pace, averaging 100.6 possessions per 48 minutes, according to NBA.com, which is in line with Golden State’s league-leading pace. For the season, Oklahoma City ranks 18th in pace.
Westbrook’s Incredible Start
Statistically, Oklahoma City’s best player this season has been Westbrook, who is averaging a career-high 28.2 points to go along with 5.8 rebounds and 7.1 assists. His rebound and assist numbers are in line with career averages, but his previous career high in points is 23.6 in 2011-12.
What’s most incredible is that Westbrook is putting up those numbers in just 31.7 minutes of action per game. In NBA history, there have been 68 different seasons entering this year in which a player has averaged a 25-5-5, and all those players averaged at least 36 minutes.
Having lost three of four after their seven-game winning streak, the Thunder are now 2½ games behind Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the West. That deficit should be no problem for the Thunder if Durant and Westbrook stay healthy based on how well they have played with their stars.
Over the last four seasons, the Thunder have won over 73 percent of their games played by Durant and Westbrook. If they win 73 percent of the rest of their games, the Thunder would comfortably be in the playoffs as the No. 7 seed with 52 wins, based on current standings.
According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Thunder have a 60.5 percent chance of reaching the postseason. If the Thunder do become a playoff team, they will have overcome the worst 15-game start by a Western Conference playoff squad since the 1996-97 Suns rebounded from a 1-14 start to their season.
Of course, most teams that start 3-12, as the Thunder did, can’t rely on stars like Durant and Westbrook to save them.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)Gregg Popovich (left) and Tim Duncan (right) advanced to the NBA Finals for the sixth time.
Spurs share the ball well, Thunder do not
The Spurs won the game by sharing the basketball, while the Thunder got 95 percent of their points from four players: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka. Only five players scored for the Thunder in Game 6, and those players attempted 78 of the team's 82 field goals. All 11 players who logged time for the Spurs in Game 6 shot the ball, and all but one scored.
San Antonio scored 51 bench points compared to just 5 for Oklahoma City, with the 46-point bench differential setting the mark for the largest in any game this season (regular season and playoffs).
A breakdown of each team’s half-court offense illustrates the offensive contrast. The Spurs had 288 passes on 105 half-court plays, while the Thunder had 137 on 100 half-court plays. One one hand, the 1.4 passes per play for the Thunder in Game 6 was their lowest of the series. On the other hand, the 2.7 passes per play for the Spurs was just above their average (2.5). Oklahoma City had 62 plays with one or fewer passes, while San Antonio had 31.
Thunder duo still dynamic
Lost in the shadow of defeat was a tremendous scoring effort from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Both scored at least 30 points in the same game for the eighth time in their postseason careers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that surpasses Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal for the second-most such games by a pair of teammates in NBA playoff history.
Westbrook had another stellar game in his own right. For the second time this postseason, Westbrook posted at least 30 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in the same game, joining Michael Jordan as the only players with multiple 30-5-5-5 games in a single postseason. Jordan did so twice, in both 1989 (4) and 1990 (3).
Spurs reach NBA Finals
For the first time in franchise history, the Spurs will make back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals. This marks the sixth NBA Finals appearance in franchise history, all of which have come in the Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich era.
Lurking in the NBA Finals are familiar foes in the Miami Heat, who defeated the Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals in seven games. This marks the first NBA Finals rematch since the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz met in consecutive Finals in 1997 and 1998.
San Antonio displayed great resilience, becoming the first team since 1988-89 Pistons to make it back to the NBA Finals after losing a Game 7 in the Finals the prior year. Spurs fans are hoping they emulate the success of the Bad Boys, as the Pistons won the 1989 Finals after suffering that Game 7 defeat in 1988.
Getty ImagesTim Duncan and Kevin Durant are four wins away from advancing to the NBA Finals.
Back in 2012, the Thunder defeated the Spurs in six games in the Conference Finals, winning the final four games after losing the first two. What are the key storylines heading into this year's matchup?
Impact of Ibaka’s injury
Serge Ibaka will miss the rest of the playoffs with a calf injury, leaving the Thunder with a big hole in the middle.
How much will Ibaka’s absence hurt the Thunder against the Spurs?
The Thunder are eight points better per 48 minutes this postseason with Serge Ibaka on the court compared to when Ibaka has been on the bench.
If there's a silver lining to Ibaka getting injured, it's that the team stumbled upon the pairing of Nick Collison and Steven Adams.
The two played on the floor together for 16 minutes in Game 6 and the Thunder outscored the Clippers by 16 when Collison and Adams shared the floor. Prior to Game 6, Collison and Adams had played on the floor together for just 33 minutes this postseason.
With or without Ibaka, the Spurs were likely going to put the Thunder's interior defense to the test. According to NBA.com Player Tracking Data, the Spurs have been one of the best teams getting the ball inside during the playoffs.
The Spurs are averaging 28.1 drives per game this postseason, third-most in the NBA. The Spurs are also averaging 19.2 "close" touches (within 12 feet of basket) per game this postseason, second-most in the NBA.
San Antonio was one of the most efficient teams around the basket during the regular season, shooting 58.1 percent inside the paint, which ranked third in the NBA. But no team slowed them down better than the Thunder. With Serge Ibaka on court, the Spurs shot just 47.1 percent inside the paint.
Thunder regular season sweep
The Thunder took all four meetings against the Spurs in the regular season, winning by an average of nearly 10 points per game.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the fourth instance in NBA history where one team was 4-0 or better versus another team in the regular season and then met in the Conference Finals.
Each of the three previous times, the team that swept the regular season won the playoff series as well.
Importance of Game 1
If history is any indicator, the Thunder could be in trouble tonight.
They have lost 10 straight Game 1s on the road, with their last such win coming in the 1992 Western Conference First Round at Golden State. The Spurs have won nine straight Game 1s, the fifth longest streak in NBA history, according to Elias.
The Spurs are 22-4 in best-of-7 series when winning Game 1 in the Gregg Popovich era (6-7 when they don’t); the Thunder have a 5-2 series record when winning Game 1 since moving to OKC (3-2 when they don’t).
What is the Excitement Factor?
Excitement: Amount of change in win probability during the game.
Winner Chance: Average in-game win probability that the eventual winner had during the game.
Overall, the average game in the Portland-Houston series has had a total change of in-game win probability of 981 percent. This is higher than the 804 percent in the Memphis-OKC series.
Beyond this, the Portland-Houston series also had two games where the team that was losing much of the game came back to win (Games 1 and 4), whereas the winners of every game in the Memphis-OKC series generally controlled their games.
Despite having four overtime games to “just three” for Portland-Houston, the Memphis-OKC series hasn’t been quite as close or “exciting” as the Portland-Houston series.
The top 6 most exciting games of the playoffs thus far have been from these two series. (No. 7 was the Vince Carter buzzer-beater.)
The average excitement of 981 percent for the Portland-Houston series is higher than any single game of any series outside of these two.