Oklahoma City Thunder Stat Monkey Brief: Thunder/Bobcats (11/26/12)
The trip east is over for the Thunder, who tonight host the Bobcats. In case you have not paid attention to Charlotte, it is no longer the laughingstock of the NBA. With a record of 7-5, the Bobcats have risen from the ashes of one of the worst seasons in history to seize a modicum of respectability. The easiest strength of schedule in the game has helped, but last year's Bobcats rolled over before even the weakest competition. This year, Charlotte rolls over for (almost) no one.
Speed and Precision
At first glance, it is curious to find Charlotte with such an improved record when the numbers across the board are still poor. Charlotte has the second worst effective field goal percentage in the NBA at .450 and sit in the bottom half of basketball in eFG percentage allowed and rebounding percentage. However, what the Bobcats have learned to do is play up tempo basketball while staying in control. The team's pace factor, an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes, is 93.4, sixth best in the game. At the same time, Charlotte has minimized mistakes with a turnover percentage of 13.3, ranking seventh in the NBA. The faster game has also helped the team force the tenth highest opponent turnover percentage. That might be their one window of opportunity against the Thunder, who have struggled with turnovers all year (although it should be noted that Oklahoma City had a very respectable turnover percentage of 10.3 against the Sixers).
Struggling on the Glass
One of the minor disappointments so far for the Thunder has been their inability to crash the boards on the offensive end. During the 2011-2012 campaign, Oklahoma City ranked 11th in the NBA with an offensive rebounding percentage of 27.8. This season, that number is down to 24.6, only 23rd in basketball. While the Thunder might never be the best offensive rebounding team, if they hope to climb back into the top half of the NBA in this stat, tonight would be the time to start doing so, as the Bobcats are the second worst in the game with a defensive rebounding percentage of 69.5.
Despite Charlotte's 7-5 record, the numbers indicate that this is the sort of game that Oklahoma City should handle with ease. Of course, that is easier said than done against a team that has won six of its last eight games.