Thunder Finding a Rhythm on Both Ends

When there is natural slippage in performance in certain areas of the game throughout the year, the Thunder always attacks the issue and problem solves as a unit.

Over the past two weeks the Thunder has experienced some adversity, and continues to work as a unit under the guidance of Head Coach Scott Brooks to find its way. Games won’t always be pretty, particularly in January when teams are growing, progressing and testing different roles and rotations with their personnel.

The Thunder managed to end a two-game skid with a 101-85 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, which helped move the team in the right direction as it keeps working on parts of the game where it hopes to be more successful. The most important aspect of the Thunder’s game is consistency on the defensive end, which it took care of on Saturday night.

“We’re pleased and there are things that we can continue to work on,” Brooks said. “Our effort was great. Our defense was right on point throughout the game.”

Toughness was the most apt descriptor of the Thunder’s effort, and that’s both a physical and mental attribute. In terms of mindset, it was important and will continue to be critical to the Thunder’s success for every man on the court to be fully committed and in tune with the team’s defensive schemes and philosophy. Regardless of whether shots are falling or not, the Thunder must stay keyed in on its execution on both ends of the floor.

“We have to really lock down and stick to what we’re doing on defense,” center Steven Adams said. “Our whole focus for the whole game was defense and we tried to use as much energy as we can on defense. In the first half our shots weren’t falling. Most of them were good shots. The second half we just made sure that we kept passing the ball and get more passes before we shot and that seemed to help us a lot.”

Not only did the Thunder play up to its standards on the defensive end against Milwaukee, it also made positive strides on offense that it continued working on in practice on Sunday. In a 39-point third quarter, the Thunder figured out how to attack the Bucks’ zone defense by using the pass instead of the dribble to let the ball find a shot. In fact, the Thunder only had six turnovers in the second half of play against Milwaukee, and wants to keep that number low moving forward.

“It was just cleaning up,” Brooks explained. “We made a stand in the middle of the third quarter to the late third quarter that we had to play better offensive basketball. Missing shots is one thing, but we have to give ourselves a chance to make shots. The ball movement was much better. The 17 assists in the second half was the key to the game and the low turnovers were important.”

If the Thunder works together in both its preparation for opponents and in the flow of the game, it can problem-solve whatever defenses throw at it. Regardless of the type of defense it faces, however, the Thunder wants to run offense with tempo, spacing and unselfishness. Shots at the rim are a plus, but Brooks is also happy with open perimeter shots, as long as they come off of the pass instead of the dribble. As the Thunder continues to build chemistry on the offensive end, it hopes to create more high-percentage shot attempts like corner threes and layups at the rim.

“We’re a very good team when we’re attacking the basket and kicking out for threes,” Brooks said. “The threes I like are on a swing-swing-pass or three-or-four passes to a kick-out three.”