OKC offense among best ever

Spurs are good, but Thunder ranks among playoffs' all-time greatest

Updated: June 6, 2012, 1:49 PM ET
By Neil Paine | Basketball-Reference.com
James Harden and Russell WestbrookRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesRussell Westbrook and James Harden have contributed heavily to the Thunder's historic offense.

During the regular season, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder had the NBA's two best offenses, with each registering more than five more points per 100 possessions than a league-average team after adjusting for strength of schedule. And as they both made their way to the Western Conference finals, it set up a matchup with as much firepower as we've seen in recent years. Along with the 2006 Western Conference finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns, this season's Thunder-Spurs matchup is one of just two series in the past 15 seasons in which offenses of this caliber have faced off this late in the playoffs.

For fans of offense, it hasn't been a disappointment. The two teams have combined to score 111.0 points per 100 possessions in the series, well above the NBA average of 103.7 during these playoffs. It's all part of a season that has seen the Spurs draw rave reviews for their offense. After Game 2 of the Thunder series, Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports wrote, "The San Antonio Spurs' offense is reaching levels of unending output that I haven't seen since Michael Jordan's Bulls were winning their titles."

It's true that the Spurs have been terrific offensively in the postseason -- after accounting for home-court effects, the regular-season strength of its defenses faced and the championship leverage of each game, San Antonio's 2012 playoff run ranks 29th among teams that reached the conference finals since 1986. That's better than any previous Spurs team has ever done in the playoffs, topping their previous best (the 2007 offense) by a wide margin.

However, while San Antonio's attack has been good, its opponent's attack has been truly great, as Oklahoma City's offense is putting on an historically great playoff run. By the same measure used to grade the Spurs above, the Thunder's offense has been the sixth best of any conference finalist in the past 27 postseasons, producing 9.8 more points per 100 possessions than we'd expect from a league-average team facing the same slate of opponents.

Neil Paine writes for FiveThirtyEight, the data-supported sports, politics and culture site coming soon from ESPN.