VIDEO: Dennis Scott and Greg Anthony preview the Bulls-Thunder matchup.
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the league’s five-game Christmas Day slate with a key stat for each team, along with an explanation of what it means. Here’s a look at the day’s second game, Chicago at Oklahoma City (2:30 p.m. ET, ABC), the only Christmas matchup of a top-three offense vs. a top-three defense.
Chicago Bulls (15-11)
The stat: No team has regressed more offensively than the Bulls, who have scored 6.3 points per 100 possessions fewer than they did last season.
The Bulls were the league’s best defensive team over the five years that Tom Thibodeau was on their bench. But over the same timeframe, they ranked 17th in offensive efficiency. Thibodeau was fired this summer and new coach Fred Hoiberg was brought in to improve the offense.
But the offense has gone in the wrong direction. The Bulls have taken a lower percentage of their shots from the restricted area, where they rank last in field goal percentage. They’ve also taken a lower percentage of their shots from 3-point range than they did last season.
The four Bulls who have taken the most shots are all below the league average in effective field goal percentage. Derrick Rose ranks 206th in effective field goal percentage among 209 players who have attempted at least 150 shots. Nobody in the league who has shot as much as Rose has shot worse.
The Bulls have also suffered big drop-offs in offensive rebounding percentage (with Joakim Noah playing fewer minutes) and free throw rate (with Rose registering a career low in that category).
Chicago has scored 102.8 points per 100 possessions over the last six games. That’s its best six-game stretch of offense this season, but it ranks only 17th over that time. And entering Friday’s game in Oklahoma City, the Bulls have lost three straight games to teams below them in the Eastern Conference standings.
More Bulls notes from NBA.com/stats
- Jimmy Butler leads all players drafted in the 2011 draft class with 21.5 points per game. Butler (30th pick) is followed by Kawhi Leonard (15th pick – 21.0 PPG), Isaiah Thomas (60th pick – 20.9 PPG), Reggie Jackson (24th pick – 20.3PPG) and Brandon Knight (8th pick- 19.8 PPG) to round out the top five in Class of 2011 scoring.
- Butler has shot 22-for-23 on clutch free throws, the best mark (tied with Thomas) among players who have attempted at least 20.
- The Bulls and their opponents have combined to score just 98.1 points per 100 possessions, the lowest mark in the league.
Oklahoma City Thunder (20-9)
The stat: Kevin Durant has shot 46.4 percent from outside the paint, the best mark among players who have taken at least 200 shots from there.
If you wanted to make the argument that Stephen Curry isn’t the best shooter playing on Christmas Day, you have at least one data point to help your cause.
Durant is one of only three players who has shot 50 percent or better on at least 100 mid-range shots. And he ranks eighth in 3-point percentage among players who have attempted at least 100 threes. He ranks fifth in field goal percentage among players who have attempted at least 100 pull-up jumpers and 10th among players who have attempted at least 100 catch-and-shoot jumpers.
Though he missed a six-game stretch in November with a strained hamstring, the Thunder star has played almost as many games (23) as he did last season (27), so it should be no surprise that OKC is one of the league’s most improved teams. The Thunder are actually the only team that’s at least four points per 100 possessions better than they were last season in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
The Thunder have scored 113.4 points per 100 possessions with Durant on the floor and just 101.9 with him on the bench (in part because they don’t stagger the minutes of Durant and Russell Westbrook much). It’s amazing how much a 6-foot-11 guy who’s been the league’s best shooter from outside the paint can help your offense.
Durant needs to put together a bit of a free throw streak to be on pace to become the third player in NBA history to have multiple 50-40-90 seasons (50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line). But he’s already having the best jump-shooting season of his career.
More Thunder notes from NBA.com/stats
- According to Synergy stats, Westbrook leads the league with 7.4 points per game in transition. The Bulls, however, allow the fewest transition points per game (12.8).
- The Thunder’s starting lineup – Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Durant, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams – has been the league’s best defensive lineup (89.6 DefRtg) among those that have played at least 150 minutes together. It leads all lineups with 2.9 blocks per game.
- Westbrook leads the league 208 unassisted field goals.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions