The Thunder’s starting lineup on Friday night was Aleksej Pokusevski, Théo Maledon, Moses Brown, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, and Isaiah Roby. If none of those names is familiar, don’t worry, they’ve combined for 285 games of NBA experience — 280 before Friday night.
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Suns, led by Devin Booker’s 32 points and Chris Paul’s 12 assists, obliterated Oklahoma City, 140-103. It was the most lopsided loss of the season for the Thunder, and the fourth loss for Oklahoma City by 30 or more points.
What may come as a surprise is that 37 points wasn’t the biggest margin of the night, as Golden State took a 130-77 beating from the Raptors in Tampa. It also may be surprising that the Thunder’s four 30-point losses aren’t the most in the NBA this season: that distinction belongs to the Cavaliers, with six.
The Grizzlies, Kings, Magic, Spurs, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers each also have multiple 30-point losses this season, helping the NBA reach a total of 38 such games. There’s still about one-third of the shortened season to go, and it’ll take only two more of these blowouts to reach the total for all of last year (also a shortened season), and for the entire 2017-18 season, according to data from Stathead.
The NBA this season already has had more games decided by 30-plus points than it did in the entire 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2015-16 seasons, when it happened 35 times apiece. There were 56 games like this in 2018-19, and the league is on pace for 57 this year in a season with 10 fewer games per team. It’s not like 56 is a common number, either — for the last quarter-century, the number of 30-point blowouts has generally bounced around in the 30s each season.
So, if you’ve been watching the NBA and feeling like there’s been an inordinate amount of butt-kickings, you’re right. It seems pretty obvious why this would be the case: in a season where games are played in mostly barren arenas, where there’s constant virus testing and protocols to follow, and where keeping starters fresh is important with a compressed schedule, of course you’re going to get more nights where one team gets its doors blown off early and doesn’t make any pretense about getting things close. Just get the game over with and move on to the next one.
Although, the way things are going, if you’re Cleveland, Oklahoma City, or Golden State, that might just be another 30-point loss.