Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Golden State Warriors: Numbers to Watch
Usually when I do this article, I break down the matchups team-versus-team and a player-versus-player matchup to watch within the game. This week, I'm not going to do that. We're going to switch it up a bit and put a little more numberFire flavor in previewing tonight's matchup between the Thunder and Warriors.
Instead of giving you a team and individual matchup breakdown, I'm going to give you some numbers versus numbers. And the numbers are going to tell you what to watch for tonight, instead of my deciding for you.
Let's break it down.
110.8 vs. 100.5
We've all heard about Golden State's great defense. In fact, according to our metrics, they are number-one in defensive efficiency with a rating of 98.6. That's 1.6 better than the next closest team, the Houston Rockets (100.2). We also know that the Thunder have struggled offensively to start out the year. They are ranked 23rd in offensive efficiency with a rating of 103.2. But, these are things we knew. We now know that each team has had its fair share of personnel changes -- one for good and the other for bad.
For the Thunder, the dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant has returned. And it comes as no surprise that, since their return, the Thunder offense has taken off. In the eight games since KD's return, the Thunder have an average offensive rating of 110.8. That's over 7 points better per 100 possessions and would be good enough for sixth in the league. Yeah, they're pretty good now.
As for the Warriors, they suffered a big blow when Andrew Bogut went down with a right knee injury. Since Bogut's early exit on December 8th against the Timberwolves, the Warriors' defense has been a shell of what it was with the big man. In those nearly five games (including that game where Bogut played only two minutes), Golden State has an average defensive rating of 100.5. That would still be good enough for third in the league. But the Warriors have really struggled in their last two games against the Pelicans (sans Anthony Davis) and Grizzlies, respectively. Over their last two contests, Golden State has an average defensive rating of 108.9, which would be 25th in the league.
It's going to be interesting to see which Golden State defense shows up tonight. It's always hard to defend the likes of Westbrook and Durant even with a rim protector of Bogut's caliber. But without Bogut, it's sure to be a tall task. We'll have to wait and see if the Warriors are up to the challenge.
37.1 vs. 28.9
The first number is Golden State's three-point percentage. Their 37.1% is good enough for sixth in the league. The three-ball is very vital to Golden State's fast-paced offense. In fact, Steph Curry and company lead the league in pace (98.1). They really like to get up and down the floor and utilize their outstanding three-point shooting.
On average, they put up 25.6 three-point attempts, making 9.5 of those per game. Those numbers are good enough for ninth and eighth in the league, respectively. Splash Brothers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have a lot to do with that. They shoot a combined 41% on an average of 14.4 three point attempts per night. But can the Splash Brothers be contained?
If anyone can do it, it might be the Thunder. The second number, 28.9, is the three-point percentage teams are shooting against the Thunder on the season. That's first in the league. And while the Warriors make 9.5 threes per game, the Thunder allow only 6.9 three point makes per contest -- sixth in the league. These are pretty impressive numbers, especially for a team absent two starters for the majority of the year. But, as good as these numbers are, there's one number that plays into the hands of the Warriors and their elite three point shooting.
This is the number of three-point attempts the Thunder have allowed per game -- 24th among all NBA teams. Yes, that means though the Thunder give don't give up many makes, they do force a high number of three-point attempts on a given night.
That could prove to be a deadly number in a matchup like this. Since the Warriors are more than comfortable with taking over 25 attempts from three per game, and since they shoot one of the best percentages in the league, the Thunder shouldn't be okay with giving up that many attempts to the likes of Curry and Thompson.
We'll have to see if the Thunder can make an adjustment and run shooters off the line or if the Warriors can take advantage of their opportunities. By the end of the night, three-point numbers might just tell us who won this matchup of Western Conference powers.