After a fantastic run at an NBA title last season the expectations for the Thunder were extremely high when the season began. For most--fair or not--it was make it back to the Finals or it would've been a disappointment. That's a high bar. But OKC's regular season saw them fulfill expectations with 60 wins and a top seed in the upcoming NBA Playoffs.
Just how impressive was it? Here's a perfect barometer of how the Thunder did versus specific expectations game by game. OKC covered spread more than any playoff team (49-31-2 ATS). That's stout.
That means for example if OKC was a 9-point favorite to beat the Kings, they would have to win by 10 points or more to cover the spread. So, not only do they have to win, but they have to go that extra mile and win by more than how much better the odds makers determined they were than the opponent.
Thus, since OKC was favored most every game, this means that 49 times they played better than the experts expected. Betting on games is about the quickest way to lose money you can find. So, I'm not promoting gambling with this illustration.
Understanding odds is a great tool in learning how good teams are, how much an impact a certain home crowd might have, how much a certain player being out impacts the game, etc. This illustration is a perfect example of how understanding odds can help on glean enlightening information.
Coaches follow this stuff, although they won't admit it. Being associated with any close to gambling is about the quickest way for a coach to lose his job. I've had tons of conversations with coaches about the odds. You're really just talking about how good a team is in the eyes of people who make a living determining those things.
Eddie Sutton was open to talk about this kind of stuff. He was comfortable in his own skin and didn't have any pretense about what he knew or the fact that he followed it. He's told me some great stories about boosters at Arkansas making comments to him about covering the spread. Of course the Hall of Fame coach never let any of this stuff impact his coaching or decisions. Point is, Eddie was always candid and most of the time up front about most everything.
I guarantee you he would look at the fact that the Thunder covered the spread more than any playoff team and appreciate what they'd accomplished.
One thing's for sure. If the Thunder continue the trend of covering the spread more than all others though the playoffs, we'll be having a parade in downtown OKC in a couple of months. Beating the expectations against Houston, then possibly Denver, San Antonio and Miami would bring OKC something no one could've ever dreamed up a decade ago: An NBA Championship.