Oklahoma City Thunder Stat Monkey Brief: Thunder/Hornets (11/16/12)
The Thunder may be the reigning Western Conference champions, but it appears that the Southwest Division did not get that memo. While Oklahoma City has run over the rest of the NBA to the tune of a 6-3 mark, it has lost both of its showdowns against Southwest foes. The bad news for Thunder fans? They get another Southwest team tonight in New Orleans. The good news? The Hornets are not exactly the Spurs or Grizzlies - not yet anyway.
The paint is going to be prime real estate tonight for both defenses, courtesy of the NBA's best shot blocker in Serge Ibaka and the best upcoming shot blocker in rookie Anthony Davis. So far this season, Ibaka is blocking 8.2 percent of all two-point shots taken by Thunder opponents while he is on the floor. That number sounds impressive, but it is still a significant drop from his 9.8 block percentage last season. Still, Ibaka leads the NBA in that category, with Anthony Davis just behind, posting a block percentage of 8.0. The sample size for Davis is quite a bit smaller, as he has only played four games to Ibaka's nine, but if his more limited action is any indicator, points in the key will be hard earned for both teams tonight.
Thriving on Freebies
The Thunder have been the best team in basketball at reaching the foul line this season, accruing a free throw-to-field goal attempt percentage of .317. Not once this season has an opponent posted a better FT/FGA percentage than the Thunder in a game. However, teams that do not gift Kevin Durant and company free points have fared much better. When Oklahoma City reaches a FT/FGA mark of .295 or better, the team is 4-0. Under that percentage, it is 2-3. The Hornets are the best team in the NBA at not allowing free throws, with a defensive FT/FGA percentage of .154. If they can keep the Thunder off of the charity stripe, they should have a good chance.
Oklahoma City dominated New Orleans last year, but this is a new look Hornets team. It will be the first chance for the Thunder to take stock of the young up-and-comers and get a little revenge on the Southwest while they are at it.