With nine games to go, the Thunder sits in fifth place in the Western Conference, two games out of third and three and a half games ahead of ninth. Though the Thunder has gone 6-1 over the last 7 games, and 7-3 over the last 10, the Thunder’s place in the standings hasn’t gotten any more secure. Portland just had a 13-game winning streak snapped, the Pelicans have won four in a row, the Spurs have won five in a row, and the Jazz had won nine in a row before losing to the Hawks. With eight teams battling for six playoff spots, the Thunder remains in must-win mode and probably will remain so through the rest of the season.
It kind of makes you look back and wish the Thunder had beaten teams like the Kings, the Mavericks (twice!), the Magic, the Nets, and the Suns, right? Consider this: if the Thunder had won just half of those games, it would be sitting in third right now, and six and a half games clear of the ninth-place Nuggets.
And those aren’t the only bad losses either…
Not only did the Thunder lose six games to bottom-feeder teams, the Thunder has lost to several teams missing key players. In addition to losing to the Celtics sans Kyrie Irving (and four other key players), OKC has lost to the Lakers without Lonzo Ball (twice!), the Pelicans without Demarcus Cousins, the Trail Blazers without Damian Lillard, the Spurs without Kawhi Leonard, and the Wizards without John Wall. Woo-wee. If the Thunder had won half of those games too, it would be 49-24 and firmly in the third seed with virtually no risk of missing the playoffs.
But the Thunder didn’t win those games, and it lost a whole host of games it should’ve won, so here we are, 73 games into the season, and still crunching numbers wondering if there will be playoff games at the ‘Peake this season.
Last Two Minute Report
So yet again, the Thunder got the sour end of the NBA’s infamous Last Two Minute Report. It follows the painful report by FiveThirtyEight, which found that the Thunder has been disadvantaged by incorrect officiating 22 times in the final two minutes of games when the score was within three points. The FiveThirtyEight report was just through February 28, and against the Celtics, officials missed four violations by Boston, including three travel calls and a missed five-second violation. My excellent math skills tell me that now missed calls negatively affected the Thunder 26 times this season. Dang.
Not only has the Thunder lost to bad teams…and short-handed teams…and lost due to poor officiating…. ut the Thunder has also lost games due to inexcusable free-throw shooting (or missing, rather).
Teams leading by six or more in the last 25 seconds of a game are 4,315-1 in the last 4,316 such games. The one, of course, is the Thunder, who managed to miss three crucial free throws in the final 24 seconds to let an important win slip from its hands. Two of those misses were the result of an empty trip to the line by Carmelo Anthony, who could’ve iced the game by making both.
I don’t know if I’ve made it obvious or not, but Oklahoma City is in very real danger of not making the playoffs, and if they don’t (or if they end up having to play the Rockets or Warriors in the first round), the players have no one to blame but themselves. Forget the injury to Roberson, this team has shot itself in the foot from every angle, and the team’s habitual ineptitude reached a peak with the botched free-throw shooting. C’mon, man.
I have been a little bit negative, and the final nine games are murderous, with match-ups against the Blazers, Spurs, Nuggets, Pelicans, Warriors, Rockets, and Heat twice, but hey, the Thunder has just one more back-to-back this season, an away/home back-to-back against the Spurs and Nuggets. I guess that means the team should be well rested as they fight for its playoff lives.
In your interesting factoid of the week, the Thunder leads the league in steals, averaging 9.0 a game. Since the acquisition of Corey Brewer, though, the Thunder has stepped it up, averaging 9.3, including a 17-steal party against the Los Angeles Clippers last Friday night.
And one more makes seven…
This is making chicken salad out of chicken something else, amirite?