Oklahoma City Thunder Stat Brief: Thunder/Celtics (3/10/13)

The defensive Renaissance has taken hold in both OKC and Boston down the stretch.

A little more than two weeks ago, the Thunder lost their third consecutive game thanks to a slumping defense. Now, they have won seven of eight to avoid falling too far behind the Spurs. Though snapping out of this minor slump was impressive, Oklahoma City’s opponent today knows a thing or two about turnarounds. On January 25, the Celtics lost their sixth straight game. Since that time, they are 14-4. What sparked both teams’ turnarounds? Defense.

Oklahoma City has played pretty good shot defense all year, ranking third best in the NBA with an effective field goal percentage allowed of .473. That has led to 97.4 points allowed per game putting the Thunder in the top half of the league.

But during the three game skid, the Thunder gave up 113.7 points per game. As great as their offense is, it could not keep pace with a struggling defense. Since that slide, they have allowed only 94.4 points per game. A big part of the reason has been improved defensive rebounding. During each of the three consecutive losses, the Thunder allowed opponents an offensive rebounding percentage above 29 percent. While they have still allowed that to happen three times over the last eight games, they are cutting down on the frequency with which opponents dominate the glass and have countered bad games by actually taking care of the ball better.

For the Celtics, it has been a similar story. Though Boston’s defense has been good all year, it was allowing 96.4 points per game on January 25. Since that time, it has gotten even better, allowing just 94.5 points on average in its last 18 contests. Like the Thunder, the Celtics have a very low eFG percentage allowed at .478. They also do a good job forcing turnovers (ranking eighth in the league) and do not send teams to the line often.

Two red hot teams clash in Oklahoma City this afternoon. Defense might be Boston’s calling card while the Thunder are known as a high flying offense. But improved defense has been pretty important to Oklahoma City too during its last eight games. This afternoon we learn if those trends hold.