- Tip Off: 7:30 PM PST
- Television: TNT
Oklahoma City Thunder Team Profile
- Offensive Efficiency: 101.4 (12th in NBA)
- Defensive Efficiency: 98.9 (9th in NBA)
Scope the Opposition: Daily Thunder.
Preview: The Golden State (5-3) Warriors recently dispatched the Detroit Pistons (2-5) at home in a game that was not all that close. They ran Detroit off the floor and claimed their third straight double-digit home victory to start the season.
Things get a little tougher tonight with the Oklahoma City Thunder (5-2) coming to town. Scott Brooks’ team was defeated last night by the Los Angeles Clippers (6-3) in an entertaining game that also featured a bit of physicality.
Although Oklahoma City was defeated against the Clips, they still managed a double-digit lead at one point early in the game. That little tidbit will probably get forgotten given the outcome of the contest, but it’s an interesting one worth focusing on nonetheless.
Indeed, OKC’s offense was giving Los Angeles’ defense a good run for their money early in the contest as evidenced by their 62 points scored in the first half. Part of that can be attributed to Russell Westbrook’s injury to start of the 2013-14 campaign.
In Kevin Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder have two horses to carry their offense through droughts and poor offensive execution. However, with the former UCLA Bruin on the shelf to open up the year, the coaching staff added a little more movement to the offense, something that Zach Lowe of Grantland touched on prior to the start of the regular season:
Westbrook’s injuries exposed Oklahoma City’s offense for what it has always been in this era: a stagnant collection of four or five set pieces with nothing behind them — no counters, no constant motion, few bits of exciting improvisation. Any halfway smart team could sniff out what was coming by the time the ball crossed midcourt. And if those set pieces failed, the Thunder would fall back on something even simpler — a one-on-one play for Durant or Westbrook, or perhaps a semi-improvised pick-and-roll, as the other players stood around.
The sets are not great by any stretch of the imagination, but OKC has a semblance of a system that allows role players to get good looks at the basket. The Thunder run more hand offs and set screens away from the ball to keep defenders occupied.
This has caused a slight decrease in one-on-one basketball in favor of team play. Synergy Sports tells us that Durant and company have seen a reduction in isolation plays and in turn, they have increased their field goal attempts in pick-and-roll situations.
Because of the added off-ball movement, containing Durant and Westbrook in pick-and-rolls (especially when they run it with each other) has become increasingly difficult.
Opposing teams are already stuck rotating by the time the screen-and-roll action takes place and that leaves them a bit scrambled. Consequently, the Thunder have driving and passing lanes that open up for them with great regularity.
For all of these enhancements, OKC’s offense this year pales in comparison to the previous season. That’s not a product of poor execution but rather the Thunder’s inability to make shots. Indeed, their marksmanship from the field has taken a hit in spot-up scenarios and post-ups so far in 2013-14 per Synergy Sports.
One has to believe that the shooting percentages will improve in these instances given that OKC has consistently been good in these areas.
Also, one thing that stands out this season is Durant’s playmaking. It was already a newfound revelation in 2012-13, but the three-time scoring champ is anticipating defenses much better and thus, he is delivering the ball with pinpoint passes before defenders get to the point of attack.
It will be interesting to see if he connects in the same manner with his teammates against a Golden State defense that has been incredibly active. Andrew Bogut provides rim protection and interior toughness while David Lee is playing better position defense and rebounding his area.
It makes tonight’s matchup that much more compelling given that OKC has not yet hit their stride. Keep in mind, the Warriors brought in Andre Iguodala precisely to slow down the likes of Durant and tonight, the former Philadelphia 76er gets his shot.
Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at JM.Poulard@Warriorsworld.net.