The Thunder finally return home for an extended stay. Starting with tonight’s matchup against the Mavericks, Oklahoma City will play consecutive games at home for the first time since a three game stretch from December 31 to January 4. And does the team ever need it, having gone 3-4 in its last seven with the most recent defeat a brutal loss to Cleveland.
The Thunder’s loss to the Cavs was perplexing because Oklahoma City’s final numbers actually look pretty good. The team posted an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of .536, an offensive rebounding percentage of 31.8 percent and a free throw-to-field goal attempted ratio of .253, all better stats than Cleveland. Even the turnover percentage of 14.5 percent was hardly egregious.
The Thunder are supposed to beat weak teams every time they outplay them, so what gives? Well, perhaps Kevin Durant actually shoulders some of the blame for this loss. Kevin Durant went 8-21, a downright awful night by his standards. That was the worst shooting effort of any Oklahoma City player save Thabo Sefolosha’s 0-2 performance.
Durant was not the only guy to blame for sure. Kevin Martin missed six threes and Kendrick Perkins had four turnovers. But clearly the Thunder struggle more when their best player is not clicking, no matter how well the rest of the team plays.
Shot Defense, but Not Much Else
The Mavs do not exactly have the Thunder’s number, having gone 0-2 against the team from Oklahoma City. But both of those losses came in overtime for Dallas, so it clearly knows how to make the Thunder work hard for a victory. The main reason for the Mavs near success is that they forced Oklahoma City to shoot poorly in both previous matchups. In the first game, the Thunder had an eFG% of .473. In the second meeting, the eFG% for the Thunder was .442.
This is not characteristic of Dallas which is a very average team in terms of shot defense (.492 eFG% allowed). However, they seem to do a good job of forcing poor shots against the Thunder. They did not do much else right in the first two meetings, but if they can tonight, look out.
The Thunder can ill afford a loss to Dallas. That would give them back-to-back losses against sub-.500 teams heading into a tough pre-All Star break stretch.