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Tag Archives: Defense

Game 28 Results: The Suns are not the Kings

Final Score: Suns 113, Thunder 110

Record: 19-9

Stat leaders:

Points: Grant Hill with 30, Durant with 28

Rebounds: Hill with 11, Collison with 8

Assists: Nash with 10, Westbrook with 9

The Thunder didn’t really take the Sacramento Kings seriously two nights ago.  They were able to pull themselves together in the final quarter to win by 15, which gave the illusion that was somehow a solid victory.  It wasn’t.  Tonight, they messed around again with the Suns, and this time the competency of the Suns pushed them over the top.  What is different between the Suns and the Kings?

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Game 17 Preview: Thunder at Houston

Tipoff: 7:00PM EST

Game Preview

Previous results: Thunder 116, Rockets 99

The Thunder are coming off a superb 4th quarter and OT finish against the Pacers (to be sure, after 3 quarters of ineptitude) and are growing in their resilience.  Westbrook is proving capable of carrying the team for long stretches when necessary, but has been still able to recognize when it is time for others to step up.  Tonight continues a long stretch for the Thunder when they’ll be away from home.  This may be a blessing in disguise, since they ar e6-1 away from home and only 5-4 in the confines of their own gym.

The Rockets have continued to struggle this year, currently standing at 4-11.  If you look at their games this year, you can see that they’re competitive in almost all of them, but frequently have come up short.  They aren’t to be taken lightly.

Keys from last game:

Chris Sheridan Comments on the Thunder D

Quick Q&A addressing the Thunder’s defense during the past week as a part of Chris Sheridan’s ESPN Q&A:

Craig (Oklahoma City)

Q: The Thunder showed their defensive toughness during a 2 game stretch without Durant and Green. I know its early in the season but what do you see as the biggest problem on the defensive end from their previous 11 games?

ESPN Chris Sheridan

A: On the defensive end? Not a lot. They won those last two with defense. If I was a Thunder fan, I would worry about Russell Westbrook being able to hit shots in the fourth quarters of tight games. He didn’t in the last two, even though they won both, and he’s going to need to be a reliable scoring option when teams with the best defenses keep the ball out of Durant’s hands or double him up high late in games.

Read the rest of the chat transcript here.

Game 9 Results: Spurs Crush Thunder in Second Half

Final Score: Spurs 117, Thunder 104

record: 5-4

Stat Leaders

Points: Tony Parker with 24

Rebounds: DeJuan Blair with 11

Assists: Westbrook with 8

The Spurs have been a very good team for a very long time.  They came into this game winners of six in a row, and three in a row in the Thunder’s own building.   Their leader Tim Duncan has four championship rings.  The Spurs are a team, like the Celtics, by which you measure yourself.  Despite the loss tonight, I’d probably still give the Thunder a B- for their performance.

Unlike their losses to the Clippers and Jazz, there were some things from which we can take away that bode well for the future. Let’s start with the positives.

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Game 7 Preview: Philadelphia 76ers at the Thunder

Tipoff Time: 8:00PM EST

Key Players:

Elton Brand: 18.6PPG, 8.1RPG
Kevin Durant: 27.7PPG
Sergei Ibaka:  8.2RPG
Jrue Holiday: 6.1 APG

Key Injuries:

Jeff Green
Andre Iguodala

The 76ers come into this evening’s game at an anemic 2-5, toiling against the mediocrity of the Eastern Conference.  The Thunder are arriving in Philadelphia looking for a bit of a team identity.  At 3-3, they have suffered 3 humiliating losses where they fell out of competition early and never really regained a foothold.  They lost badly to a Clippers team that may be on the same competitive level of the Sixers.  The question tonight is, will Philly see that as a sign of weakness and play above their heads, thriving on the home crowd? Or will the Thunder seek to snap out of their season’s funk and finally assert themselves collectively?

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Game 5 Results: Thunder See Red, Finally Charge

Wow, that is one hackneyed post title.

Result: Thunder 107, Trailblazers 106

Stat leaders:

Points: Durant, Westbrook with 28

Rebounds: Camby with 12

Assists: Andre Miller with 11

What the pros are saying:

What I’m saying:

Watching a team compete, even if they lose, is like a breath of fresh air.   Maintaining a winning momentum over the course of 82 games is not easy; even the best and most disciplined teams (Spurs, Lakers) will have letdowns.  But five games in? Game fatigue shouldn’t yet be a problem, which is why I and so many others were concerned about the Thunders’ lackadaisical effort in their loss to the Clippers.   I think it is a simple series of  questions that can be asked thus:

Q: “We just got run out of the building by the Clippers.  Why?”

A: “Because we didn’t play hard enough.”

Q: “Why didn’t we play hard enough?”

The answer, if players are honest, is: “We didn’t think we needed to.”

That is probably why they barely beat the Bulls and then got embarrassed by the Jazz and Clippers.  They were on the cusp of it happening again, but then they started to do the things that teams need to do when they’re playing from behind.

To wit:

  • They cut the deficit to 6 going into the 4th quarter. If they don’t do that, there is no last second heroics.
  • They cranked up defensively, especially on Roy and Aldridge.
  • They eased up on the three point shooting, down to 15 this game.  Durant cut his personal attempts in half, this time making a respectable 2-5.

The Blazers played admirably, especially since they had just lost three key contributors to their team (Oberto, Fernandez, Williams).  Once again the Thunder were not completely focused defensively in the first half, allowing the Blazers to shoot a very high percentage (64%) in the first half.  However, this time the Thunder kept their wits about them and did not roll over, as they had previously done.  After they lost an early seven point lead in the first quarter, The Thunder suddenly found themselves trailing again.  Instead of being demoralized this time, they kept their heads in the game and kept things close going into the fourth quarter.  A six point deficit is easily undone; a 15 point deficit, not so much.

I think that this is the key factor in the win; the fact that the Thunder realized that there come points in every game, no matter who the opponent, where they have to grind.  I immediately think of the winning ways of the Spurs over the past decade.  They have become the masters at grinding; that is, whenever important facets of the team concept are failing, they adjust so that those facets are minimalized and others become the focus so that they gain a relative competitive advantage.

I think this is what I saw the most out of the Thunder in the playoffs last year – the willingness to fight, and you have to be willing to do it – you have to not be afraid to fail.  This factor was as encouraging as anything I’ve seen in the team thus far.  At this point in the season, the win is icing.

11/3 Daily Links

Game time tonight.  A great measure of a team’s resolve is how they respond from defeat.

What the pros are saying:

What I’m saying:

  • The Spurs beat the Clippers for a 17th consecutive game.  That is impressive enough, and speaks both to superior personnel as well as a long standing familiarity with success that the Clippers have barely scratched during their entire existence.
  • The Spurs’ bench had outscored the Clippers’ bench by a score of 25-0 by the time the 4th quarter had started.  In other words, the Clippers aren’t very deep.
  • This game will probably be more about what is wrong with the Clippers than what is right (or needs to be right) with the Thunder. Even so, it’s always nice to play a JV team from time to time.
  • Simmons riffed on the Clippers’ young superstud, Blake Griffin.  He’s already saying that Griffin is starting to exhibit “the stink” of the Clippers.

Cole Aldrich: a Defensive Illustration

Royce Young at DailyThunder posted a video for the Thunder faithful, featuring rookie Cole Aldrich, along with Young’s analysis.  Please read his first, and then I have a few additional comments.

Cole Aldrich’s Defense

Granted, that game was not an overall positive reflection of the Thunder’s interior defense.  On a case by case basis though, Royce takes a closer look at two specific plays that actually mattered when the game was close.

Here’s the video he’s using for his analysis:

In the first scenario that Young highlights, Aldrich is using his body effectively to prevent a superior low post player from getting to his spot.  For a classic back to the basket post player like Jefferson, he is typically going to have two to three specific spots he wants to get to on the court.  Starting out on the block, the offensive player is normally going to pivot either into the lane or to the baseline for a hook shot, a fade-away (0.00), or an up-and-under move.  The biggest key for the defender is what he does before the offensive player even catches the ball.  By pushing the player away from the basket and away from his preferred position, Aldrich is forcing him to take a lower percentage shot.  In this example, he has forced Jefferson just an extra foot or so away from the rim, but you can see that this is all it takes, because Jefferson front-rims his hook shot.

In the second scenario that Young highlights, the Jazz are using a back pick screen to rub Miles’ defender off of him so that he can get into the lane.  Aldrich feels the screen coming without seeing it (and perhaps his teammate communicated it effectively to him as well) so that when Miles came off the curl, Aldrich challenged the passing lane by “showing” his defensive posture.  And yet, he didn’t over-commit and leave Jefferson.  In doing so, it allowed Aldrich to filter Miles into the lane at a difficult angle where the shot was challenged, while simultaneously sealing off Jefferson from either a pass or a rebound.  It is fluid and innate, and the Thunder will need more of this classic post defensive play if they are to cleanse their wounds effectively.

Thanks to Young for putting this little video together.

11/2 Daily Links

Thus far, we’ve played approximately 3.66% of the total regular season games.  Naturally, this is a perfect sample size to determine whether the Thunder will not win another game, or if they will sweep the Heat in the NBA Finals.

I’m kidding.  Probably.

What the pros are saying: