Over 53 minutes and nearly one-hundred shot attempts only Steven Adams would make a foul shot for the home team.
See KD has led the NBA in made free throws for five years straight. In addition Russ has been among the top-five league wide in each of his last three healthy seasons. Getting to the foul line and converting has been the primary advantage for OKC during their five year run of success.
Sans their stars the Thunder have become the first team in at least three decades to make fewer than two foul shots in an overtime game.
Date Tm Opp Result MP FGA FT FTA
2014-11-14 OKC DET L 89-96 (OT) 265 96 1 6
2014-02-08 MEM ATL W 79-76 240 90 1 1
2013-11-24 PHO ORL W 104-96 240 95 1 3
2012-01-14 TOR CHI L 64-77 240 86 1 7
2004-02-25 NJN MIN L 68-81 240 83 1 5
1996-01-09 TOR CHH L 91-92 240 84 0 3
The Oklahoma City Thunder have played ten playoff games in 2014. Understanding the sample size is still small we could see flukes in OKC’s production by lineups. But early on there are dramatic differences in Scott Brooks 5-man units.
When Brooks goes small and inserts Reggie Jackson and Caron Butler for Perk and Thabo we see an improvement in rebounding and big jump in shooting efficiency. Overall this small unit is +30 points/100 possessions.
This is an outrageous difference and is not likely to last. But ten games in there is no argument which Thunder lineup has been most productive this playoff season.
Not to take anything away from OKC’s star point guard Russell Westbrook but the team has been really good in his absence. Obviously Kevin Durant having 100% control of the squad plays a big factor in their success.
Let’s also credit the more than steady play of backup point Reggie Jackson. He has started all 18 games since Westbrook went down and scored 15 points/night. His 5 assists and 2.5 turnovers per game are very good for a second string player. Throw in 4 rebounds and we have a Thunder team that has gone 13-5 with the former Boston College star running point.
The Jazz own 4 of the 9 highest free throw rates during the 3-point era. Karl Malone himself made more free throws than anyone in NBA history. The Mailman led the league in FTM a record eight seasons. Former Jazz teammate Adrian Dantley is second on this list. A.D. led the NBA in FTM five times.
All these made free throws were what really helped Jerry Sloan‘s team win all those games. Utah posted winning percentages of at least 62% each of the four super free throw seasons.
There has been a general decline in free throw rates since the late 90’s. Here are the highest FTM/FGA rates since the 1999 Jazz:
Notice the massive differentials in free throws the Oklahoma City Thunder have been taking advantage of two of the last three seasons. Kevin Durant is leading the league in made free throws for the 4th straight season. Teammate Russell Westbrook has ranked in the top-5 NBA wide in free throws made three years running.
The 2013 version of the Thunder are shooting a sparkling 83% from the foul line. Only the 1990 Boston Celtics and 2003 Dallas Mavericks have shot 83% for a full season in the history of the NBA.
One last random note. The team with the highest FT/FGA since the turn of the century is Larry Brown‘s terrible ’06 Knickerbocker team. They were the worst team in the eastern conference despite having an awesome free throw rate. Center Eddy Curry led the team in free throws and posted a superb .514 FT/FGA rate. Among NBA players in 2006 Curry ranked 29th in free throws made but 129th in field goal attempts. That’s getting to the line!