Oklahoma City Thunder Stat Monkey Brief: Thunder/Nets (1/2/13)

Can the Thunder ring in the New Year with a victory?
Having dispatched the Suns, Oklahoma City now turns to a more formidable foe for its first game of 2013. Alright, so it may be a bit of a stretch to call the Nets formidable at this point, but they did take the Thunder to the wire in the first meeting between these two teams. And having won two of three, Brooklyn is back above .500.

Cutting back on the freebies

Brooklyn is one of the better teams in the NBA at not sending opponents to the free throw line. The team ranks seventh best in defensive free throw-to-field goal attempted percentage at .191. However, in the first matchup between these two squads, the Thunder won the game at the line, notching a ridiculously high FT/FGA mark of .455 in the six point Oklahoma City win.

The Nets dominated the glass and won the turnover battle, but the Thunder found a way to overcome that. Brooklyn is going to need to come up with a better way to win than fouling Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook repeatedly, because that undid all of the other good work done by the Nets in the first meeting.

Keeping things up-tempo

The Nets are playing their seventh game in 11 days tonight thanks in large part to a four game stretch in five days at the end of December. The Thunder will be playing only their fifth game in the last 11 days, and have not played on back-to-back nights since November 23-24.

How is this relevant from a statistical standpoint? Well, Oklahoma City likes to push the pace more than the average team, ranking 8th in pace factor, an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes, at 92.5. When the offense starts clicking, it has the ability to move at an obscene pace (the pace factor in the recent win over Houston was 110.1).

Brooklyn, on the other hand, has the lowest pace factor of any team in the NBA at 87.8. They are a methodical, slow team to begin with, and given the recent schedule, they are likely tired. Should the Thunder try to test the Nets tonight, they may be able to find some extra points by pushing the tempo.

The Thunder ended December with about as dominant of a game as they have played all year. They owned the boards, scored efficiently, got to the line and did not turn the ball over. The Nets should be tougher than the Suns, but the opportunity is still there for Oklahoma City to remain in the amazing groove that they found against Phoenix.