The Oklahoma City Thunder ended the regular season with a bang as they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 127-116 on the road. The win clinches the 6-seed, and OKC enters the playoffs on a 5-game win streak.
Sharing is Caring
The Thunder set a franchise record tonight as they dished out 40 assists on 48 made field goals. Russell Westbrook led the way with 17, Raymond Felton had 7, Terrance Ferguson had 5, and five other players had at least one.
It makes sense that the more assists the Thunder has, the better they play, and taking a look back at the season proves this. On the season, OKC finishes with an average 23.3 assists per game, and in 35 games when the Thunder recorded at least 24 assists, they went 27-8. In the other 47 games where they recorded 23 or fewer, OKC went 22-25.
Simply put, when Oklahoma City shares the ball and swings it around the perimeter, they find good shots. When they resort to playing isolation basketball, the margin of error becomes a lot smaller, making it much tougher to win basketball games.
Stick to the Plan
The Thunder set another franchise record tonight as they knocked down 23 threes. Oklahoma City has not been even a decent three-point shooting team for much of the season, but tonight, they got off to a hot start as they finished the first half 14-27 (51.9%), and they ended up going 23-54 (42.6%).
While setting the record was awesome, especially when knocking down those shots at a high percentage, the Thunder cannot afford to resort to shooting too many threes in the playoffs. The hot start led OKC to take even more shots from deep, and while they shot well overall, they cannot expect to sustain that level of accuracy longterm.
This team’s best version of offense comes when they’re playing hard-nosed defense that forces turnovers and allows them to get out in transition. The Bucks committed just 14 turnovers, but the Thunder was able to get out and run to score 28 points in transition.
Regardless of whether or not the three-ball is falling, if OKC can get out and run on teams, they stand a good chance of making some noise in the postseason.
Thunder Player of the Game
Jerami Grant capped a fantastic regular season in which he saw tremendous growth in his role as the Thunder’s starting power forward. He finished the night with a career-high 28 points on 11-20 (55.0%) from the field and 4-8 (50.0%) from three while grabbing 5 rebounds.
Grant is a key piece to the Thunder’s success, and opponents tend to forget about him, which has made it easier for him to get open looks from three. OKC will need that energy from Grant as the playoffs begin this weekend.
On to the Playoffs
The Oklahoma City Thunder has clinched the 6-seed, and now they await a couple of other games to shake out before they know who they play. The Thunder could end up matched up with the Denver Nuggets, the Houston Rockets, or the Portland Trail Blazers, depending on how a couple of games finish.
The NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, and the Thunder will play Game 1 on the road on either Saturday or Sunday. We will update as information is released.
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