Oklahoma City has not been right so far this season. The offense ends up in too much isolation for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The defense lacks the tenacity it had last season, teams are shooting well against them. OKC is not creating turnovers and converting those into the spectacular transition points we expect.
But they are above water at 4-3, thanks to free throws.
No team in the NBA gets to the line more often then Oklahoma City — they have attempted more free throws in ratio to field goals attempted than any team in the league (35.4 percent). Durant has averaged 10 free throws a game, Westbrook 9, Jeff Green another 6.8. As a team they average 32.6 free throws a game.
And they are converting them at a record 87.3 percent. As a team they are shooting just shy of 90 percent. For comparison, the best team free throw percentage for a season was the 89-90 Boston Celtics at 83.2 percent. OKC is 4 percent higher than that right now.
All this is keeping the Thunder in games when everything else isn’t working. And that’s part of the plan, coach Scott Brooks said told the Oklahoman.
“That is the personality of our offense,” Brooks said. “We want to get to the rim, attack the basket and get to the free-throw line. It’s a great asset to have.”
You get the feeling that the Thunder will work out their other problems, that this is just is just the fluctuations one should expect from a young team. Learning to win at the next level, as the hunted and not the hunter, is hard. But if you have one thing you can fall back on — say getting to the line a lot and converting — you have a cushion that allows time to work everything else out.