OKC at POR Preview – Familiarity Breeds Creativity

PORTLAND – Division rivals in the NBA face each other four times each season, so over the years, the Thunder and the Portland Trail Blazers have seen each other enough to know one another’s playbook by heart.

The key for teams like Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club is to tackle the challenges opponents present with creativity while still sticking to the principles that has helped the team improve its regular season winning percentage in each of the past five years. As the 41-12 Thunder faces the 36-15 Blazers on Tuesday night, Brooks and his staff have a plan for how they want the team to defend the explosive Portland offense.

The Thunder’s typical tight man-to-man defense will be an important aspect of what the team does tonight, but the way the team defends LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez has been an intriguing aspect of the two teams’ previous three meetings so far this year.

“You have to be able to change it up from time to time,” Brooks said. “If you give great teams and great players a daily diet of the same things, they’re going to be able to pick it apart.”

“We understand that you have to play very well here,” Brooks said. “We have to make sure that we just play solid basketball on both ends of the floor.”

At times in the season series, Thunder big men Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka have done something called pre-switching on the Blazers’ pick-and-pop when it involves Aldridge. By anticipating the pass out of the screening action, the big who was defending Lopez in the paint gets out to prevent an open shot for Aldridge, while the defender originally marking Aldridge dives back into the lane to prevent an entry pass to Lopez.

While that’s just one example of a subtle defensive action the Thunder can employ, it’s a part of its overall defensive playbook, and just a small aspect of what has made the team the second best field goal percentage defense in the league.

“We always just try to focus on us and get better every day through what we do and what our concepts are,” forward Kevin Durant said. “They may change here and there with who we are playing but we try to stick to the same things and not panic when guys make shots.”

“We’re just growing every day and learning more-and-more about our team each day with the guys we have,” Durant continued. “We are just trying to build our habits up. We hang our hats on the defensive end. We could be better on that end.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 1-2 against the Blazers this season, and overall is 13-10 against Portland in the regular season.

- The Thunder’s 18 road wins are second most in the NBA this season.

- The Thunder is 57-5 over the past two seasons when holding its opponent to 42 percent shooting or less.

Broadcast Info:

9:00 p.m. CT. TV – Fox Sports Oklahoma; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network