Western Conference Finals Preview: Thunder vs Warriors

Mar 3, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after a basket against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 3, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after a basket against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

The Western Conference Finals start Monday night at 8:00 CST. The Thunderous Intentions crew will have plenty to say during the series, but before it begins, here are a few stats to get you caught up on the season the two teams have had thus far.

GSW Stats
GSW Stats /

The Golden State Warriors were the best offense in the league, and by almost any measure, had one of the greatest regular seasons in history. The Warriors won 73 games, including all 3 match ups with the Thunder, and bested their opponent in 39 of 41 tries on their home court.

The Warriors thrive in transition and that aspect of their offense is one of the most efficient in the league. The Warriors had the third-highest points per possession (PPP) in transition, scoring 1.16 PPP on transition opportunities.

The Warriors’ offense is so dangerous in transition not only due to their efficiency in transition but also their volume. Transition opportunities make up 17.5% of their offensive possessions, 3rd in the league and far higher than the two teams ahead of them in efficiency (Raptors and Cavaliers).

The versatility of the defense is what makes the Warriors so dangerous, and Draymond Green is the straw that stirs the drink.

The Warriors’ defensive efficiency slipped from last season (101.4 last season, 103.8 this season), but it is still one of the best in the league. Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Green are all exceptional defenders, and while league MVP Stephen Curry isn’t the most physically imposing, he can hold his own on defense.

Golden State not only has the ability to switch both on and off ball screens, but the defense also finds ways to switch back to the original match ups, which prohibits the offense from taking advantage of whatever mismatches it may have. This leads to a high amount of isolation opportunities against the Warriors (10.4% of defensive possessions end in isolation attempts), and offenses score the 5th-fewest points in isolation against Golden State (0.78).

The Warriors most lethal lineup is the well-known “Death Lineup”: Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Barnes and Green. This lineup outscored opponents by 44.4 points per 100 possession during the regular season, one of the best marks in the league.

OKC Stats WCF /

The underdog in the Western Conference Finals is the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder rode Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to the 2nd best offense in terms of offensive rating, and those two were more than capable of bearing the load.

Few players have the ability that Westbrook has to get to the basket, and with Russ, sometimes quantity is better than quality.

Russ averaged 10.1 drives per game during the regular season, per NBA.com’s SportVU data. Russ shot over 50% on field goal attempts from drives and had one of the higher assist percentages among those in the top 10 in drives.

Durant is proficient in almost every area of offense, but his scoring in isolation is one of the more impressive.

Isolation scoring is one of the most inefficient forms of offense, but Durant manages to score 0.99 PPP, which puts him in the 85th percentile. Durant is able to score in isolation despite the opposition knowing exactly what’s coming.

The Thunder have struggled defensively at times during the regular season and playoffs (including Game 1 of the series against the Spurs that will be referred to as the game that shall not be named henceforth). What the Thunder do well on defense, though, is contain the roll man.

The Curry-Green pick-and-roll is one of the most lethal two-man combinations in the game. Curry’s shooting and passing ability combined with Green’s ability to score at the rim or make plays for teammates is second to none. During the regular season, however, the Thunder gave up only 0.95 PPP to the roll man in pick-and-roll situations, the 3rd-best mark in the league. Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams are two of the better pick-and-roll defenders for the Thunder, and while one can defend the roll man, the other is skilled enough to protect the rim at a better than adequate level.

The Thunder have two 5-man lineups that have impressive numbers. The starting lineup (Westbrook-Andre Roberson-Durant-Ibaka-Adams) has a net rating (points scored per 100 possessions minus points allowed per 100 possessions) of +18.1 in over 800 minutes this season. The Westbrook-Dion Waiters-Durant-Ibaka-Kanter lineup has also been impressive, outscoring opponents by +18.7 points per 100 possessions this season.

Next: Thunder advance to Western Conference Finals

The Thunder and Warriors met three times this season, with the Warriors coming out on top all three times, but if we learned anything from the Spurs series, it’s that anything can happen in the playoffs.