Quick take: Spurs (19-6) vs. Thunder (19-4)
Nov 9, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Kevin Martin (23) fights for possession of the ball against Detroit Pistons guard Will Bynum (12) during the second half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Spurs will win if: 3-pointers are limited to a small dosage.
Oklahoma City, the league’s top 3-point shooting team, is nearly impossible to vitiate if they are connecting from behind the arc. They also lead the league in foul rate but given their talent and home-court advantage, allowing a bunch of free throws could be inevitable.
San Antonio — third in opponent’s free throw rate and fourth in opponent’s 3-pointers per game — is perfectly suited, in theory, to limit Oklahoma City. Everything is easier in theory.
The Spurs will lose if: They don’t capitalize on turnovers. They will be there.
The Thunder are turning the ball over on 15.2 percent of their possessions, the worst rate in the league. San Antonio will have plenty of opportunities to score off turnovers so they can’t afford to waste those possessions.
X-Factor: Though James Harden is a superior player than Kevin Martin, the Thunder offense hasn’t regressed. Its been a quarter of the season, a decent enough sample size, and the Thunder are scoring 114 points per 100 possessions, leading the league.
Oklahoma City is even better with Martin on the floor — averaging 115.2 points per 100 possessions according to NBA.com/Stats.
Martin, seventh in true shooting percentage (.653), is shooting at a career-high rate from the foul line, at the rim, behind the arc and on mid-range shots. The luxury of being an auxiliary option rather than the only option has benefited Martin, playing in his ninth season. The Thunder benefit from his presence, too — they create an astounding 32.4 free throws per 48 minutes, far and away the league’s best number.
Martin still gets to the line often — 5.5 free throw attempts per 36 minutes up from 5.1 last year — and since he’s traded isolations for assisted spot-up possessions this season, his efficiency has sky rocketed. Being the third option also means that he can plant himself in the corner, where he’s shooting 40 percent.
Oklahoma City did “settle” for the lesser player in Martin. But sometimes less is truly more.