Thunder Locked in on Continuing All-Around Play

While the Thunder hopes to be playing its best basketball towards the end of the season, it is laying the foundation for impending gradual improvement right now.

Natural slippage occurs throughout the long, strenuous NBA season, but the key over the 82-game span is for the Thunder to re-correct any issues by returning to its core philosophy. Over the past few weeks as the Thunder has rattled off wins in 13 of its last 14 games, it has played to its standards for effort, energy and togetherness on both ends of the floor. As a head coach, Scott Brooks has been proud of his team’s execution over the past few weeks, but also knows that as the season progresses, there will be opportunities for continued growth.

“We’re defending, we’re rebounding, we’re running the floor and getting open in transition,” Brooks said. “We’re making the extra pass. This is what we want to keep as our norm. It’s always a work in progress with our group. We still have to improve on areas. We’re trying to fix spots as needed.”

One are the young but experienced Thunder team has improved upon this season as compared to years past is on the glass. A team goal coming into the season was to be better on the defensive boards, fully completing a defensive possession with a strong rebound.

Currently the Thunder ranks first in the NBA in total rebounds at 47.4 per game, including a league-best 36.0 on the defensive side of the ball, led by Serge Ibaka who is consistently grabbing 10 rebounds each game. By allowing opponents to shoot just 41.9 percent from the field, second best in the league, the Thunder has created stop after stop and this year, has been able to close out those possessions with rebounds that can lead to early offense.

“Going into the season we wanted to improve in that part of our defensive game,” Brooks explained. “We feel that we will make teams miss but we didn’t always have the mindset to go get the rebound, but we’ve done a better job locking up with the opponent and then rebounding.”

Once the Thunder gets those defensive stops and into transition, it tries to use its athleticism, length and quickness to create easy looks at the rim. The Thunder racks up 99.35 possessions per 48 minutes, playing at the fourth-highest pace in the league. By creating those extra possessions, the Thunder’s transition offense has thrived to the tune of 17.4 fast break points per game, second most in the league. While the Thunder likes to get early offense, it is equally concerned with getting high-percentage looks each trip down floor.

“We definitely want to play with pace,” Brooks said. “We don’t mind quick shots if they’re good. That’s one area I think we’ve improved on over the past years. Our quick shots seem to be much better now.”

While the Thunder has played well on both ends of the floor so far this year, there are still 60 games left in the season for the team to keep building together. In order to complete its goal of playing its best basketball at the end of the year, Brooks’ squad will have to get to a point where it is not only executing its offensive and defensive game plans each game, but also for all 48 minutes.

“We’re playing good basketball right now but we want consistency and that’s what good players and good teams strive for,” Brooks said.