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What To Make Of These Close Wins

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 5:55 pm •  Published: January 27, 2011
Scott Brooks (left) insists close games are more stressful on a coach than a player.
Scott Brooks (left) insists close games are more stressful on a coach than a player.

The Thunder notched yet another close victory last night.

A one-point overtime win at Minnesota bumped Oklahoma City to 17-6 in games decided by seven points or less.

What does that record mean? Is it a good thing? A bad thing? Or does it not matter at all. Our panel offers their take in today’s question of the day.

What do you make of the Thunder’s 17-6record in games decided by seven points or less?

It’s good and bad in my book. It’s good from the standpoint that these guys know how to win close games. They don’t get nervous. They don’t get out of sorts. They know that if it’s close, they can win. But there’s a bad side to this, too. Wednesday night’s one-point overtime win at Minnesota is a prime example. The Timberwolves are a 10-win team. Why in the world is the Thunder in such a close game with them? Yes, the win is great. Yes, the entertainment was grand. But the Timberwolves are a team the Thunder should have been able to beat going away. It goes back to this team’s struggles on defense. If you don’t defend well, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley are going to have big nights, the Timberwolves are going to take you to overtime and you’re going to have another victory in a close game. For the Thunder, it’s great to get a win, but should it have been so close? They have to figure out a way to put away inferior opponents so that they don’t have so many close games. The best way? Play better defense.

The Thunder’s great record in close games is part fluke and part skill. And it’s a great skill to have, the ability to play well late in close games. It starts with foul shooting. If you rank the reasons why the Thunder beat Minnesota last night, foul shooting is No. 1. Keep the game close, and the Thunder has a huge edge. And the Thunder is young, which would seem to be a negative in close games, but close games are decided at the end of 48 minutes, so fresh legs are a wonderful attribute. But of course, sometimes it’s just dumb luck. Luke Ridnour misses a foul shot last night. Who was it a few games ago, missed a bunch of late foul shots? That’s just fortune. The Thunder has its share of that, too.

It’s kind of a good news/bad news answer. The good news is the Thunder is finding a way to win close games. The bad news is a lot of those games probably shouldn’t be that close. The Thunder is 4-0 in overtime, but continues to struggle with teams lower in the standings. Against sub-.500 teams this season, the Thunder has edged Detroit (105-104); Philadelphia (109-103); Milwaukee (82-81); Indiana (110-106 in OT); Houston (99-98); New Jersey (123-120 3OT); Golden State (114-109); Houston (118-112); and Minnesota (118-117 OT). There have been sub-.500 losses at the LA Clippers (107-92); at Toronto (111-99); against depleted Phoenix (113-110) in OKC; at Memphis (110-105); and the Thunder trailed Charlotte going into the fourth quarter before closing with a 31-12 final period. Obviously, a 17-6 (.739) record is impressive, but there shouldn’t have been so many. By the way, who decided the cut-off was seven points or less? That’s a three-possession game (barring a four-point play). I could go along with a two-possession game (six points) being a better cut-off, which would make the Thunder’s record even better at 16-5 (.762).

As Kevin Durant said after the Wolves thriller, the Thunder is going through these close games for a reason. And that reason will reveal itself in late April. When the playoffs roll around, we’ll see how much better the Thunder is because of these regular season experiences. Playoff games, for the most part, are close contests. The Thunder is still young and still not supposed to be able to defeat the elite teams in a seven-game series. But with the help of these close games now, the Thunder might be able to steal a few more win they really matter.


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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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