The Thunder make their first trip in history to Brooklyn tonight, and they enter the game on a five game tear. The Nets had put together a five game win streak of their own, but fell in their last outing against Miami. Still, Brooklyn has the third-best record in the Eastern Conference and should present the most serious challenge Oklahoma City has seen in some time.
One of These Things is Not Like the Others
Brooklyn's defense has proved to be a puzzling case all year. On the one hand, it ranks in the bottom half of the NBA in effective field goal percentage allowed (.486), turnover percentage forced (13.8) and defensive rebounding percentage (72.1). On the other hand, despite mediocre stats in most key defensive categories, the Nets allow only 91.1 points per game, the second fewest in basketball. It seems that the whole might actually be greater than the sum of the parts in this case, although when you play as methodically as the Nets do, games tend to be lower scoring. Brooklyn averages the fewest possessions per 48 minutes with a pace factor of 87.9. Of course, the Thunder have not exactly had to run the floor non-stop to score, ranking 14th in pace and first in points per game.
A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Oklahoma City has won five in a row, with an average margin of victory of 21.4 points. They have blown away the opposition in part thanks to a defense that ranks second in effective field goal percentage allowed, but mostly because of the highest scoring offense in the game. Kevin Durant justifiably gets the bulk of the credit, but the entire Thunder roster seems capable of shooting superbly. Kevin Martin, Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha join Durant in the top ten in the NBA in true shooting percentage, as all of them have a mark of .630 or better. Miami is the only other team with multiple players shooting that well, and they only have two.
There really has not been any team as dominant as Oklahoma City over the last four games. Then again, none of the opponents in those games currently has a winning record. The Nets do. And the last time the Thunder played a team above .500, they got taken to overtime.