Thunder is near the bottom in NBA pace. Would playing faster help?
The Thunder lost to the Lakers 112-107 Tuesday night in Los Angeles, and it’s no secret how the Thunder lost. In transition.
At halftime, the Lakers had committed 10 turnovers, and the Thunder had committed nine turnovers. The Lakers had scored 20 points off those nine turnovers. The Thunder had scored two points off those 10 turnovers.
In all, the Lakers outscored OKC 30-16 in fast-break points.
Welcome to the new reality without Russell Westbrook.
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Westbrook made the Thunder an automatic fast break. But those days are gone, and the Thunder is playing at a slower pace. While also not faring great in transition defense.
The Thunder ranks 24th out of 30 teams in fast-break points, 15.7 per game. The Thunder ranks 13th out of 30 teams in fast-break points allowed, a decent 17.9.
But in transition net points, the Thunder is 22nd, at minus-2.2 per game.
A year ago, the Thunder finished fifth in NBA fast-break points, 24.4 per game. OKC was fourth in transition defense, 17.4 per game. The Thunder was outscoring opponents by seven points a game on fast breaks.
That’s a huge difference.
The Thunder naturally is playing slower, with 34-year-old Chris Paul at point guard. And Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is more of a deliberate player than most 21-year-olds. Heck, even the change from Jerami Grant to Danilo Gallinari signals a slowdown.
But a slowdown offense works well only when it’s efficient. Fast-break points often are easier points. Layups, dunks, open 3-pointers. Billy Donovan talked about that repeatedly last season.
This year, the Thunder is not getting that many easy shots. Which explains why OKC is 21st so far this season in offensive efficiency.
The Thunder is 26th in pace this season. Which means only four teams – New York, Denver, Sacramento and Orlando – are playing slower than is the Thunder.
The Thunder is not built to play fast. But fast might be the best way for OKC to find better offense.