Your Thunder is putting together a nice little season; 27-13 going into a Laker showdown tonight in LA.
The Thunder has had a lead somewhere in the fourth quarter of 31 of those 40 games. And won 27 of them.
Think about that. In a league whose critics say is nothing but a fourth-quarter league, the Thunder only four times has lost after holding a lead sometime in the fourth quarter.
Wait. It gets better. In those four losses, the latest
in the game the Thunder led was 6:25 remaining. In other words, the Thunder is unbeaten in games when it led anytime in the final six minutes.
The reason is clear: exquisite foul shooting.
The Thunder absolutely does not give away games at the foul line.
It drives us all nuts when the local high school team can’t make foul shots. I don’t know what it would be like to follow an NBA team that gives away games because it can’t regularly make unguarded 15-footers. A rash of high blood pressure, I assume.
“It’s a hurtful feeling, knowing you had a game in your hand and couldn’t win it at the free-throw line,” said Jeff Green, an 80.9-percent foul shooter.
This Thunder edition doesn’t know the feeling.
Remember the Joe Torre Yankees? They had a young and unhittable Mariano Rivera ready to go in the ninth inning, usually paired with a stud setup man. The Yanks played seven-inning games. Beat them in seven or you weren’t going to beat them at all.
That’s the Thunder. Beat them before the final four minutes. Get ahead, because if the Thunder is ahead, the Thunder wins.
The Thunder is shooting 83.1 percent from the foul line; the NBA record is 83.2 percent, by the 1989-90 Celtics.
I ran some numbers. In the final four minutes of two-possession games (six points or less), the Thunder’s foul shooting soars: 109 of 122, 89.