In the long run, the Thunder will have to win on the road at some point to secure the title. Though the Thunder successfully stole home-court advantage from San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals, the three straight losses at Miami in the championship round showed just how critical it is to maintain consistency away from home.
One reason for optimism even in spite of the alarming defensive numbers is the Thunder has lost its past four road games by an average of 5.5 points, a clear sign that games are still competitive and the team has had a chance to win in crunch time.
Additionally, the recent string of setbacks and close calls on the road has come against a higher quality of competition. When the Thunder was 9-4 away from home the bulk of those wins came against mostly mediocre teams. Despite being 6-5 in the last 11 road games, three of those defeats have come against Denver, Golden State and the Lakers, three of the more talented teams in the league.
“We're playing against teams, besides the Lakers maybe, that likes to have a high pace to the game, a lot of shots,” added Thabo Sefolosha. “I think we all got to do a better job, mainly not giving up second-chance points. I think we play pretty well initially but then sometimes give up the offensive rebound and some easy baskets down low.”
Fatigue is something that never will be used as a crutch by the Thunder. But it also can't be ruled out while searching for answers. Saturday's game at Cleveland was the completion of 12 of 15 games on the road.
“It could be a little midseason funk,” said Kevin Martin. “But that just shows us that we're nowhere near where we want to be, or a finished product. So we have some work to do.”