One of the biggest surprise teams in the NBA will travel to Oklahoma City tonight to take on the Thunder. The Charlotte Bobcats have started the season 7-5 after finishing with the worst record in the history of the NBA (percentage-wise) last season.
If the playoffs started today, the Bobcats would be a six seed in the Eastern Conference which is something we never thought we would have been saying this time of year.
Charlotte is winning close games as they are ranked just 26th in the league in offensive efficiency and are 13th in defensive efficiency.
Kemba Walker has gotten off to a good start now in his second season in the NBA. He’s averaging 18.0 points and 6.0 assists per game to lead the Bobcats in both categories. His backup, Ramon Sessions, has also been integral to the team’s early success averaging 17.2 points off the bench.
The toughest team Charlotte has played all season was the Memphis Grizzlies and week and a half ago and they lost to them. The Thunder will present a similarly tough challenge for the Bobcats tonight.
The Thunder offense has been efficient again this season as they are 3rd best in the league but they are doing so a little differently. Last year, they were beasts on isolation and pick-and-roll plays while so far this season they are in the bottom half of the league on those plays. Fortunately for OKC, Charlotte is not particularly good at defending isolations and the pick-and-roll so perhaps the Thunder will get back on track with those types of plays tonight.
The Thunder have really improved as a spot-up shooting team ranking 6th in the league on those plays. Kevin Martin is leading the way but has struggled in the past two games for the Thunder. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should have no problem putting the pressure on and receiving the focus from the Bobcats defense which will create more open opportunities for Martin.
Of course, the Thunder are favored and should win the game tonight. The Bobcats are not particularly great on the offensive glass which is sometimes a way to give the Thunder trouble. The Bobcats have taken care of the ball so far this year which will be essential tonight for them to stay in the game.
The Bobcats have been at their best in the pick-and-roll this season on offense but the Thunder have dramatically improved their pick-and-roll defense this year as they are first in the NBA allowing just 0.73 points per possession on those plays.
The Bobcats are second to last in the league on spot-up shots and aren’t much better on isolation plays which makes you think points will be hard to come by tonight in OKC.
The Thunder are fresh off a two game back-to-back vs. Boston and Philadelphia in which both games came down to the wire. OKC will be looking to shut the door early tonight vs. Charlotte and don’t be surprised if they do.
The game tips off at 8 p.m. EST.