OKC vs. PHI Preview – Keep Pushing to Get Better

As the seconds tick off the shot clock towards zero, the Thunder knows its defense is doing its job.

Over the past few games the Thunder has gradually picked up its defensive execution thanks to better intensity, communication and focus. One example of how Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team’s defense has improved lately could be seen in Sunday night’s home win over the Charlotte Bobcats, when the Thunder forced three shot clock violations. Forcing opponents to run through all of their offensive options and still be stymied after 24 seconds is a great sign that the Thunder’s defense is working to perfection.

“It means that we’re on the same page defensively,” forward Kevin Durant said. “We definitely have to be better but it’s a good step, but we have to keep improving on the small things like boxing out, closing the paint up and getting out to shooters and we’ll be fine.”

Tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder wants to keep that positive momentum on the defensive end going. By clamping down on Philadelphia’s two leading scorers, Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young, the Thunder can force the 76ers into putting the ball in the hands of their non-primary options. Team leaders like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison also want the Thunder to lock in on some team-wide defensive goals, like preventing Philadelphia from getting offensive rebounds or out into the fast break.

“We know this team wants to get out into transition,” Durant said. “They want to rebound their misses and get second chances, so we have to limit both of those.”

In order to limit Philadelphia’s fast break points, the Thunder will have to run efficient, crisp offense for as many possessions as possible on Tuesday night. In the past, Durant has identified a number of teams, including the 76ers this season, as ones that will often send an extra defender when Durant has the ball out at the top of the key. The attempt to trap Durant up high can force the ball out of his hands, but as a playmaker, the Thunder All-Star believes that he and his teammates can work together to thwart whatever the 76ers throw at him.

“So many teams play me different ways,” Durant explained. “I watch other games and they lock in on their defensive schemes, but when teams play us it changes a little bit because we have Russell and Serge (Ibaka) and they try to focus in on taking things away from me. I’m a threat when I don’t have the ball and when I do have the ball, so I have to adjust.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 1-0 against the 76ers this season, and overall is 9-1 against Philadelphia in the regular season.

- The Thunder is 13-4 when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook score 20-or-more points in the same game.

- The Thunder is 23-8 when Serge Ibaka blocks three-or-more shots in a game.

Broadcast Info:

7:00 p.m. CT. TV – Fox Sports Oklahoma; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network