The regular season is 90 percent done for the Thunder, who will be in a brutal fight for home court in the West over the remaining eight games. They trail San Antonio by a game, but welcome the Spurs to Oklahoma City tonight with a chance to even up both teams in the loss column tie the season series.
The last time that the Thunder were in a position to overtake the Spurs, things did not go so well. Oklahoma City lost by 12 in San Antonio largely due to a poor shooting performance (.468 effective field goal percentage) that coincided with a great night from the floor for the Spurs (.573 eFG%).
Who were the main culprits? Russell Westbrook stands out for missing 16 shots, but he also made 11 and went one of three from deep. His performance was certainly subpar by his standards, but it is also a stretch to pin the Thunder’s offensive struggles solely on him. Given that the rest of the Thunder starters all posted eFG% over .500, they cannot be blamed either.
No, the fault for the anemic offense in the last loss to the Spurs falls in large part to the bench players. The problem was not simply that the bench combined to score a skimpy 16 points. The bench players were also highly inefficient, shooting just 31.6 percent. The bench guards (Martin, Jackson and Fisher) were particularly dismal, combining to go 4-15.
Same Old Story
It would be one thing for the Thunder if they had one off shooting night against the Spurs, but unfortunately, it is a common occurrence. In the first game of the season, Oklahoma City had a .422 eFG% and lost to San Antonio 86-84. Even in beating the Spurs 107-93 on December 17, the Thunder managed an eFG% of just .471, relying mainly upon 27 made free throws for their scoring output.
All of that adds up to an average of 94.6 points per game against the Spurs this season. While the Thunder have great offensive numbers overall, if they continue to shoot poorly and struggle to score against San Antonio, they are going to keep losing games in the matchup.
Of course with all of that said, the Thunder can push the reset button with a win tonight and would control their own fate by winning out. They probably cannot hope to beat the Spurs though without figuring out a solution to San Antonio’s stout shot defense.