The Thunder is starting to build up some playoff history. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison have now played 44 playoff games together.
The Thunder is 25-19 in playoff games and 5-3 in playoff series.
And here’s one reason for that playoff success. The Thunder stars improve their games, to a largely degree, in the playoffs.
I studied the playoff production, compared to the regular season, of four Boomers – all but Ibaka, whose role has changed so much that it’s not really relevant.
But Durant, Westbrook, Thabo and Collison are being asked to do quite a bit of the same kinds of things they were asked to do three years ago in that first-round playoff series against the Lakers. Only do it better.
And they are.
I looked at four stats: points per game, field-goal percentage, true shooting percentage (which also factors in 3-pointers and foul shots) and win shares/per 48 minutes. Win shares is a complicated formula that tries to account for every statistical column in a game.
Here’s what I found.
Durant was not as productive in the 2010 playoffs as he was during the 2010 season. In 2010, Durant averaged 30.1 points a game with a .476 field-goal percentage and a .607 true shooting percentage. His win share/per 48 minutes was .238.
That dropped off in that Laker series: 25 points a game, .350 shooting percentage, .499 true shooting percentage and a .054 win share/per 48 minutes.
But in 2011 and 2012, Durant beefed up his game in the post-season.
In 2011, Durant averaged 27.7 points in the regular season, then 28.6 in the playoffs; his shooting percentage went down from .476 to .449, but his true shooting percentage dipped only from .589 to .582. And finally, Durant’s wins shares/per 48 minutes went up, from .189 to .217.
And in 2012, Durant’s numbers were even better. His scoring rose from 28.0 to 28.5, his field-goal percentage went up from .496 to .517, his true shooting percentage went up from .610 to .632 and his win shares/per 48 minutes went up from .230 to .231.
Westbrook’s playoff totals have gone both up and down, depending on the year and the stat.
In the 2010 playoffs, Westbrook’s scoring went up from 16.1 to 20.5, his shooting percentage went up from .418 to .473, his true shooting percentage went up from .491 to .571 and his win shares/per 48 minutes went up from .105 to .208.
In 2011, Westbrook’s scoring went up from 21.9 to 23.8, his shooting went down from .442 to .394, his true shooting percentage went down from .538 to .499 and his win shares/per 48 minutes went down from .159 to .084.
In 2012, Westbrook’s scoring went down from 23.6 to 23.1, his shooting went up from .457 to .467, his true shooting percentage went down from .538 to .506 and his win shares/per 48 minutes went down from .163 to .133.
The production of Thabo, for the most part, has fallen a little in the playoffs.
In 2010, Thabo’s scoring went down from 6.0 to 4.5, his field-goal percentage went down from .440 to .296, his true shooting percentage went down from .509 to .436 but his win shares/per 48 minutes went up from .082 to .085.
In 2011, Thabo’s scoring went down from 5.1 in the regular season to 4.6 in the playoffs. His shooting went down from .471 to .463, his true shooting percentage went down from .545 to .543 and his win shares/per 48 went down from .097 to .068.
In 2012, Thabo’s scoring went up from 4.8 to 5.3, his shooting went down from .432 to .402, his true shooting percentage went down from .584 to .500 and his win shares/per 48 went down from .095 to .077.
Nick Collison was better in the 2011 playoffs and about the same in 2012.
In 2010, Collison’s scoring fell from 5.9 in the regular season to 3.2 in the playoffs, his shooting went down from .589 to .333, his true shooting percentage went down from .616 to .351 and his win shares/per 48 went down from .146 to .020.
In 2011, Collison’s scoring rose from 4.6 to 6.7, his shooting improved from .566 to .632, his true shooting rose from .600 to .662 and his win shares/per 48 rose from .113 to .177.
In 2012, Collison’s scoring fell from 4.5 to 3.5, his shooting rose from .597 to .647, his true shooting rose from .622 to .638 and his win shares/per 48 fell from .130 to .119.
But here’s one thing to remember. Playoff scoring and shooting percentages generally go down. Defense tends to take over. If a player can maintain or come close to maintaining his regular season performance, much less improve on it, then he’s doing his job.