HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers have gone streaking. The only double-digit winning streaks of the 2012-13 season have propelled OKC and the Clips past the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs to the top of the Western Conference standings.
On Wednesday, the Thunder take an 11-game winning streak into Atlanta, while the Clippers put their 10-game winning streak on the line against the last team to beat them, the New Orleans Hornets.
Both streaks are about incredibly efficient offense. The Thunder have scored almost 116 points per 100 possessions over the last 11 games, while the Clippers have scored more than 112 over the last 10. Both are big jumps from the level each team was playing at before their streak started.
|First 13 games||95.5||107.5||100.5||+7.0|
|Last 11 games||93.5||115.9||100.5||+15.5|
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
|First 14 games||94.8||104.5||99.7||+4.8|
|Last 10 games||93.1||112.2||96.3||+16.0|
Interestingly, both teams have been playing at a slower pace during their winning streak. The Thunder have defended at the exact same level as they did through their first 13 games and they currently rank ninth in defensive efficiency. The Clippers have improved defensively and are now the only team in the league to rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Both teams are great examples of how offense is about more than just shooting. They both rank in the top five in effective field goal percentage for the season, but their in-season improvement has really been about other factors.
The Thunder’s offensive improvement has been about taking care of the ball and crashing the glass. During the streak, they’ve turned the ball over 2.6 fewer times per 100 possessions than they did in their first 13 games. And their offensive rebounding percentage is up from 23 percent to 31 percent. Combine the two and they’re getting about six more shots per 100 possessions.
For the Clippers, it’s all about turnovers. They went from turning the ball over 17.6 times per 100 possessions in their first 14 games to just 12.1 in their last 10. That, plus a small improvement on the offensive glass, has given the Clips about eight more shots at the basket per 100 possessions.
The Clips’ turnover improvement has come from everywhere but Chris Paul (who wasn’t turning the ball over much in the first place), but has really started with Blake Griffin. Griffin had 43 turnovers in the Clips’ first 14 games and has had just six in the last 10.
Both winning streaks come with a caveat, however. Both the Thunder’s 11-game streak and the Clips’ 10-game streak are, in part, a product of the schedule. Over the last few weeks, OKC and L.A. have had two of the easiest schedules in the league.
The Thunder beat the Spurs on Monday, but their 11 wins have come against teams with a (current) cumulative record of 119-154 (.436). Eight of the 11 have come at home and only one has come on the second night of a back-to-back. For the season as a whole, the Thunder have played the easiest schedule in the league.
OKC is about to face an interesting test, though. Less than 24 hours after Wednesday’s game in Atlanta, they play in Minnesota. If they can keep the streak going through those two games, they’ll have deserved four days off before their Christmas visit to Miami.
The Clippers’ schedule was pretty tough for the first month, but has eased up quite a bit since. They won in Chicago last week, one of five wins during their streak that came on the road. But their 10 wins have come against teams with a cumulative record of 103-144 (.417). They’ve had two back-to-backs during the streak, but the Rose-less Bulls were the best team they’ve knocked off.
Things aren’t going to be much harder for the Clips over the next couple of weeks. The best teams they face over their next eight games are the 14-12 Nuggets and 14-12 Jazz. Then they’ll face the 17-8 Warriors twice in the first five days of January.