OKC at LAC Preview – Pick-and-Roll Defense Must Be On Point

LOS ANGELES – The Clippers may be the highest scoring team in the league coming into Wednesday night’s matchup, but the Thunder believes it has the tools to slow them down.

Last season the Thunder ranked second overall in the NBA in field goal percentage defense, holding teams to under 43 percent shooting. Much of that success on the defensive end derives from the continuity Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club has in not just its starting five, but throughout the roster. So far this year the Thunder is holding teams to 43.2 percent shooting, while also forcing opponents into 18 turnovers per game.

The 5-1 Thunder will be challenged tonight as it battles Chris Paul and the dynamic 5-3 Clippers squad helmed by Doc Rivers, but Brooks is confident that with its “next play” mentality, his team can prevail.

“We feel we’ve been a good defensive team for years now so we have to just focus on what we do and make sure we’re all on the same page,” Brooks said.

“With Chris Paul and some of their players, you can’t get frustrated if they score a bucket off their defense,” Brooks continued. “You just have to continue to have that mentality of erasing the last play and doing the same thing the next play.”

The Clippers have a penchant for getting out into transition, but the Thunder’s main area of focus tonight besides stopping fast breaks is to deal with Paul in the pick-and-roll. The way that the Clippers play, Paul can manipulate and work through each read within the offensive system, so for perimeter players like Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Durant, it will be imperative to stay physical and ready at all times. Thus far this year, the Thunder has been solid in its pick-and-roll coverages, which must be executed with discipline tonight.

“We’re being aggressive,” Westbrook said. “We've been doing a good job of just trying to find a way to control the ball. Tonight it's going to be big, so we have to make sure we stay on that.”

In the Thunder’s locker room, the belief is always that if the team handles its defensive responsibilities, the offense will take care of itself. Both teams like to get out and run, playing an up-tempo brand of basketball, so there likely will be no shortage of points scored in this contest. The key for the Thunder will be to make the Clippers as inefficient on offense as possible, disrupting the Clippers’ timing, making passes a challenge and forcing difficult shots.

“They’re really going to test our defense tonight and it should really challenge us and make us better as well,” Durant said. “We have to be on point every possession. We have to come out there and play together like we have been playing and on the defensive end wreak havoc with our length.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder went 3-0 against the Clippers in 2012-13, and overall is 9-9 against the Clippers.

- Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams have combined for six double-doubles through the Thunder’s first six games.

- The Thunder is 4-0 when out-rebounding its opponent so far this season, and has grabbed 10-or-more rebounds than its opponent on two occasions already this season.

Broadcast Info:

9:30 p.m. CT. TV - Fox Sports Oklahoma. Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network