A return to Oklahoma City got the Thunder a win over the struggling Mavs, but it still was not pretty. Now, they are back on the road in Houston to take on a team that has done anything but struggle as of late. Winning seven of their last nine games, the Rockets seem poised to give the Thunder a much better fight than in their last contest, a 22 point victory for Oklahoma City.
Where has the shooting gone?
The last time the Thunder and Rockets clashed, Oklahoma City shot beautifully, recording an effective field goal mark of .592. As good as that number was, it hardly shocked anybody given that the Thunder had the best eFG in the game. While they still hold an eFG of .525, third best in the NBA, the team shooting has been nothing short of disastrous over the last four games. Over that stretch the team has gone 2-2 while posting eFG percentages of .482, .433, .458 and .473. Those numbers, far from being at the top of the NBA, would make the Thunder one of the worst shooting teams if they had similar efforts all year.
Bounce back game?
Now, the Thunder get a Rockets group that has given up the second most points in basketball and ranks 25th in eFG allowed at .507. That has the sound of a bounce back game, but let us not get ahead of ourselves. Dallas sported only a slightly better D than Houston and still did a good job forcing Thunder misses in Oklahoma City. In Houston, the Rockets have to feel that no matter how much they have struggled so far defensively, they have a chance to limit Oklahoma City's opportunities. They will not stop Kevin Durant, who has had a eFG percentages of .696, .595, .571 and .536 in the four games that the rest of the team has struggled. But Minnesota and Miami won even with Durant lighting it up, and Dallas nearly did the same. With Serge Ibaka as the only other Thunder player with any sort of offensive momentum, teams seem more comfortable with conceding points to Durant and making others beat them.
It is hardly time for Oklahoma City to panic. After all, an occasional off night is to be expected for the best teams. Four poor shooting performances in a row is a little concerning, and if the slump continues against a questionable Rockets' defense then there is definitely a problem. This team spent most of the season proving it has the ability to score as efficiently as any group in basketball. They have to perform like that again. Soon.