Five biggest factors in OKC’s turnaround
1. Dogged defense
The backbone of the Thunder’s success has been defense. With assistant coach Ron Adams and guard Thabo Sefolosha on board for a full season, and others coming back more determined, Oklahoma City transformed from one of the worst defensive teams last year to one of the best this season. The Thunder yielded 103.1 points per game a year ago and allowed opponents to shoot 47.5 percent. This year, Oklahoma City is allowing 96.7 points per game and 44.4 percent. The Thunder also allowed teams to shoot 36.4 percent from behind the 3-point line last year and has lowered that figure to 33.5 percent this year. OKC’s opponents are turning the ball over 1.2 more times per game this season.
2. Roster continuity
Because of mid-season acquisitions and injuries, the Thunder played only 17 games last season with its starting lineup of Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. This year, the Thunder had a full training camp and preseason with that starting unit and has played 72 games with the same starting lineup. OKC has been fortunate to avoid the injury bug. Of the nine-man rotation, only Krstic, Nick Collison and James Harden have missed games due to injury — a combined 15 games.
3. Impact rookies
No other playoff team has a trio of rookies making as big an impact on their team as the Thunder’s threesome of James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor. Harden, the No. 3 overall pick, is the team’s leading scorer off the bench.