Thunder Rebounding With Force

As Head Coach Scott Brooks always says, “the game tells you what you need to work on.”

On Monday, the Thunder got back to work immediately after its high intensity 106-105 overtime win over the Washington Wizards on Sunday night with a few goals in mind, but stayed true to its commitment to team principles. Practice sessions like those at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center help the Thunder keep an even keel regardless of the previous night’s result. Team leaders like Kevin Durant ensure that the team doesn’t get too high after an emotional win or get too low after a tough loss with their steady work ethic.

“We talked about a couple of the minor details that were so important to last night’s game,” Brooks said. “Just some of the little things that we’re going to have to get better at when we play throughout the NBA season. There are going to be so many close games.”

“We just stick with the same things,” Durant said. “We want to stay consistent with it… You stick with your work and trust in it.”

One area the Thunder looked to at the beginning of the season as an area for improvement was rebounding, particularly on the defensive end. Through the first two weeks of the season, the early returns have been positive. Currently the Thunder ranks second in the NBA in overall rebounding, including fourth in offensive rebounding and seventh in defensive rebounding.

So far this year, the Thunder is 4-0 when out-rebounding its opponent, and 2-0 when out-rebounding its opponent by ten-or-more. Last year, the numbers were also telling, considering Brooks’ club was 44-8 when grabbing more rebounds and 12-0 when grabbing ten-or-more than its opponent, compared to 14-14 when grabbing fewer boards than the opposition.

“We felt going into the season that we can get better rebounding performance from everybody,” Brooks said. “One of the things we’ve done well in the past is we’ve rebounded as a team defensively. Everybody chipped in. I like what Serge has done this early part of the season. I also like his offensive rebounding.”

“Coach told us the numbers, the record we have when we out-rebound teams,” Durant said. “It’s a crazy number. In order to give ourselves a chance to win, we have to out-rebound our opponents. We’ve been doing a decent job. We can be a lot better. That’s the best part of our team, we’re just trying to grow every game.”

The Thunder is hauling in 47.0 rebounds per game, including 34.2 on the defensive end and 12.8 on offense, the only team to rank in the top ten in all three categories. Those numbers aren’t just a product of the fast tempo that the Thunder plays with or the fact that the team’s shooting percentage has been a bit lower than normal in the early going, creating more offensive rebounding chances because the Thunder’s rebounding percentages are high as well. In fact, the Thunder is third in rebounding percentage, snagging 53 percent of all missed shots, including 75.9 percent of defensive boards and 29.1 percent of its own misses.

The philosophy in Oklahoma City has always been to rebound by committee, and that has stayed consistent this year as eight players are picking up 3.5-or-more rebounds per game thus far. However, one player’s efforts have stood out so far this season, as Serge Ibaka has grabbed 10.5 boards per game, good for tenth overall in the NBA for an individual.

Not only has Ibaka’s energy galvanized the team’s efforts around the glass, but the technique amongst all the Thunder players has been better. Boxing out, positioning and timing are all factors when it comes to rebounding and early in the year, the Thunder has been precise in those areas.

“We’re doing a much better job of making sure we have contact on their rebounds,” Brooks explained. “We’re hitting first and then going and getting the basketball.”

“It’s a big jump from last year,” Durant said. “Everybody is helping. Serge is doing a great job, (Kendrick) Perkins and Steven (Adams) too. We just have to keep it up.”