OKC vs. LAC Preview – Pick-and-Roll Coverage a Focal Point

In terms of manipulating the pick-and-roll, there aren’t many more challenging covers for an NBA big than the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, but the Thunder is ready for the challenge.

The Thunder held back-to-back practices on Friday and Saturday at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center to kick-start the team’s nearly two straight weeks at home, focusing on its principles on both ends of the floor. As usual with the Thunder, the most important tenet of how it wants to play is on the defensive end of the floor. From leaders like Kevin Durant Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison to newcomers like Steven Adams and Andre Roberson, every Thunder player recognizes that this practice time is essential to honing those defensive tendencies.

For Adams, who will likely see an uptick in minutes with starting center Kendrick Perkins out for Sunday’s tilt against the Clippers with a groin injury, this practice time will be particularly beneficial. Since Head Coach Scott Brooks has a bevy of options to work with, it will be up to all 13 players to step up and perform at a high level on the defensive end.

“It’s mainly our defense,” Adams said. “We’re still working on our defense and getting better. Our last game, we learned a lot from it.”

“He’s going to get more opportunities now,” Brooks said. “There are going to be games where we can go with smaller lineups and games where we can go with different guys in that five spot.”

Adams has started two games already this season, the first actually coming against this same Clippers team in an early season road game in Los Angeles. As a result, Adams has a better familiarity with the Clippers’ starting personnel than a typical reserve otherwise normally might have. In particular, Adams pin-pointed the way the Thunder defends the pick-and-roll as the most challenging aspect of his task, describing the way the Brooks wants his bigs to be aggressive in attacking up the floor against the opposing ball-handler.

“For a big, it’s hard especially the way (we) like to do it, because we like to be up on the screen and the big has to move his feet,” Adams said. “It pushes the guard back so he doesn’t have any attacking options. You push him up to try to make him retreat and get out of the offense. That’s the main goal. It’s pretty hard to make people do that, especially guards like Chris Paul. It’s going to be tough.”

The benefits to pushing a point guard like Paul back up the court are to get teams out of their offensive flow, which then impacts the timing for the other four offensive players on the floor. With the Clippers as an example, a job well done by Adams at the point of attack in the pick-and-roll could result in busted routes by DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin as they try to roll to the rim.

In Griffin’s case, the pass on a pop out to the elbow can also be disrupted, which would prevent him from getting off a clean jump shot. The Thunder understands that Griffin’s athleticism is a factor, but also wants to make sure that he doesn’t get into a groove from the perimeter either.

“He’s knocking them down at a higher level than he has in the past,” Brooks said. “We just have to take away his easy buckets. That’s a lot easier said than done. He’s as athletic rim to rim as any big in this league.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 1-1 against the Clippers this season, and overall is 10-10 against the Clippers in the regular season.

- The Thunder is 10-1 in Sunday games so far this season.

- The Thunder is 15-1 at home against Western Conference foes so far this season.

Broadcast Info:

12:00 p.m. CT. TV – ABC; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network