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In a tight Western Conference race, failure to convert free throws has been costly for the Oklahoma City Thunder

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After their last-second win over the Sacramento Kings, the Oklahoma City Thunder clung to the fifth spot in the Western Conference with a 34 and 26 record. However, for a short time after Russell Westbrook hit the “winning” shot just as the final buzzer sounded Thunder fans experienced a few minutes of apprehension when a scoring snafu at reported the game as a 113 to 110 loss and not a 110 to 107 win.

The mistake was corrected, but for a short time the standings in the NBA Western Conference looked like this:

So precarious is the place the Thunder find themselves in, had that loss stood, they would have dropped two spots from 5th to 7th.

Suffice it to say, with just 22 games remaining, the Thunder have pretty much burned up any margin for error. The sad part, even considering the bad losses and near misses to weak teams, the Thunder could easily be sitting in the #3 catbird seat with some wiggle room to work with. How?

By hitting their #$&^%@ free throws.

To Patrick Patterson and Terrance Ferguson, sit the rest of this one out. Patterson is hitting over 90% of his shots from the line and the rookie has only missed one attempt this season. For the rest of the Thunder, pay attention.

To date, the Thunder have lost 4 games in which the margin by which they lost is less than half the number of free throws missed. If you count games in which the total misses is exactly double, that number increases to 6. Add four wins to the Thunders current total and their record is 38 and 22, add the other 2, and the Thunder are 40 and 22 and just 4 12 games away from the #2 seed.

Other than 2Pat and TFerg, everyone is guilty of giving freebies away:

A careless miss here or there is all it takes to completely change the outcome of a game and a game in the playoffs could be the difference between advancing and going home.

The Thunder hit 83.3% of their free throws against the Kings, had they laid one of those 65% stinkers that have hounded them off and on all season that ugly standings graphic above would be a reality and not a misprint.