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

The Blazers are unsuccessful in important statistical areas across the board, but they still find a way to win. What gives?

Having dispatched the Lakers with relative ease, the Thunder now travel to Portland for a tougher contest against the Trail Blazers. At 20-16, the Blazers have been more than respectable, especially over their last 10 games in which they have gone 7-3. However, the overall team stats do not match Portland's record.

No consistency, no problem

Looking at Portland's numbers, it is tough to find a reason the team has been successful. On offense, the Blazers rank 16th in effective field goal percentage (.487), 16th in offensive rebounding percentage (27.4 percent) and 21st in free throws-to-field goal attempts ratio (.196). That puts them in the bottom half of the NBA in all of those categories. Defensively, they give up the 22nd most points per game (99.1) and allow opponents to shoot with an eFG percentage of .504, 23rd in the NBA.

Despite these below average stats, Portland finds ways to win. What is the secret? So far, the Blazers have had an uncanny knack of dominating their opponent in one area to get a win. Against the Heat, they could not get shots to fall from the floor, but made 23 free throws, while only allowing Miami 20 trips to the line (of which the Heat converted only 14). When they beat the Grizzlies just over a week ago, Portland survived getting dominated on the boards, in the turnover column and at the line by playing stifling shot defense and letting Memphis make only 40.7 percent of its shots. The Blazers survived a rash of turnovers and fouls against the Knicks by posting an eFG% of .574.

Taking, not making threes

While the Thunder do not yet know what area, if any, will be the strength for Portland tonight, Oklahoma City can be assured that the Blazers are going to chuck up a lot of threes. Portland ranks fifth in the NBA in three pointers attempted with 24.4 per game, thanks in large part to Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard who rank second and fifth in the league respectively in three point attempts.

But just because Portland takes a lot of threes does not mean it makes a lot. The team ranks just 23rd in the NBA in 3 point percentage at .344. The Thunder, therefore, should not need or try to match them shot for shot from behind the arc. A plethora of missed threes cost Oklahoma City the game in Washington, and on Friday, 20 missed three pointers against the Lakers made that game closer than it should have been (although it was still a 15 point win).

Portland is a tough team to beat at home, and Oklahoma City has struggled at times on the road. The stats all indicate that the Thunder should win, but the Blazers have developed a knack for beating teams that the stats say they should not. This could be a good game tonight.