Guarding the 3-point line was a complex challenge for Oklahoma City in the first half. The Thunder gave up at least seven 3-pointers on 18 occasions. Much of the shooting clinics came as a result of the Thunder's inability to stop dribble penetration.
Utah, for example, scored 120 points against the Thunder on Halloween and made seven of 11 3s. The Jazz racked up an opponent season-high 32 assists behind Deron Williams' ability to slither into the teeth of the Thunder's defense. Each time Williams made his way into the paint, he forced the Thunder to help and free up a cutter or spot up shooter.
Williams had 15 assists that game and, in the Thunder's third game of the season, provided the blueprint on how to overpower OKC.
The Thunder's offensive improvement, however, can't go ignored.
OKC is taking better care of the ball — lowering its turnovers from 15 per night a year ago to a 13.8-average this season — while earning 3.4 more trips to the foul line on average. The Thunder has been more effective and efficient running fast breaks and, in the half-court, attacking the basket rather than settling for jump shots.
With the exception of a few fourth-quarter clunkers, late-game execution has gotten drastically better this season, and inbounds plays throughout the game and in crunchtime have looked much sharper as well.
The Thunder's 3-point shooting, currently tied for last at 32.4 percent, has been worse than anticipated. But individual growth in several areas has been evident in many of the team's current core players.
“I think we're better than we were last year,” said Kevin Durant. “A lot of people put lofty expectations on us. But I think that we've progressed. As individuals, we've gotten better throughout the season … And our record is better. In this game, it's all about wins and losses.”