If the Thunder is going to rise to playoff contention, one way to do it is on the backs of bad teams.
A chance to begin the climb comes in tonight’s season-opener against Sacramento in a Ford Center matchup of two lottery teams.
The Thunder is looking to improve on a 23-win season. The Kings’ 17 wins last season were the fewest in the NBA.
"Most playoff teams beat the teams they’re supposed to beat and split with teams they’re fighting for (playoff) spots,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "That’s always been the case. You have to take care of home court and beat the teams you’re supposed to beat.”
Two years ago the worst a Western Conference playoff team did against sub-.500 teams was 28-9. Last year all eight West playoff teams posted a 29-9 record or better against teams with losing records.
Utah is a perfect example. The Jazz was 18-25 against the league’s top teams but was 30-9 against teams with losing records. Winning at home and beating lottery teams is how Utah earned the No. 8 seed.
"When you get to where you’re making steps, and you’re a better team competing for the playoffs, you have to win most of the games you should win,” said Nick Collison.
"We’re not at that point, yet. For us, none of them are gimmes. We have to earn every, single win.”
One of the most revealing stats last season is the Thunder won only two season series.
Oklahoma City was 3-1 against Memphis, 2-1 against Sacramento.
The Thunder either split or lost season series against the league’s other 27 teams.
The flip side is the Thunder was swept by 12 teams.
Oklahoma City finished a combined 0-34 against the Lakers, Celtics, Cavaliers, Magic, Nuggets, Hornets, Rockets, Suns, Hawks, Pacers, Heat and Bucks.
Veteran point guard Kevin Ollie has been in the playoffs four times, including playing for the 2001 Sixers that lost to the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
"You definitely have to win your share (against losing teams),” Ollie said.
"But those teams say the same thing about (beating) us.