OKC vs. LAC Game Preview – Staying Connected on Defense

The Thunder faced the Clippers just eight days ago, but that doesn’t change the team’s approach heading into Thursday night’s showdown at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

With Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the opposing bench, the Thunder’s defensive focus will start with attacking the pick-and-roll, in attempts of getting the ball out of Paul’s hands and away from the rim. Thunder big men like Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Steven Adams will have to be on point with their defensive coverages to not only stop the ball and prevent lob passes, but also to be in position to grab the ball off of missed shots.

“It’s mainly the helpside and rebounding,” Adams explained. “As long as we can contain Chris Paul and then have a lot of helpside for the rollers in the pick-and-roll, we should be fine.”

The players not involved directly in the pick-and-roll’s assignments will be just as challenging, with shooters like JJ Redick, Jared Dudley and Jamal Crawford moving along the wings. Redick in particular is a test for wing defenders because of his constant movement and the Clippers’ intention to get him going early in the game. In fact, Redick ranks fifth in the NBA in first quarter scoring, racking up 7.3 points in 8.6 minutes per game in first quarters. It’ll be up to Thunder wing defenders to stay attached to Redick and the other Clippers wings for 48 minutes.

“You better be able to follow his footsteps,” Brooks said. “He doesn’t need a lot of space to get his shot off. You really have to lock in and stay connected to him. They set good screens and he flies off of it and he never stops.”

As with each game, the Thunder’s defensive intensity will be its number one objective, not only to slow down the Clippers who boast the league’s second highest scoring offense, but also to boost its own chances at scoring. The Thunder currently leads the league in rebounding, so if it can grab defensive boards after getting stops it can get dynamic offensive players like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant out into the open floor and into transition.

“Our offense is dictated by our defense,” Durant said. “We score easier when we play great defense. When that’s the formula, we just have to go out there and do it.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 0-1 against the Clippers this season, and overall is 9-10 against the Clippers.

- The Thunder is 4-0 in games at Chesapeake Energy Arena so far this season.

- The Thunder is 4-1 this season when Serge Ibaka blocks three-or-more shots in a game.

Broadcast Info:

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