OKC at ATL Game Preview – Staying Connected on Defense

ATLANTA – In the NBA your defensive assignment can be standing innocently without the ball one second, then a split second later be putting two points on the board.

Against the Hawks, the ball whips around the court as quickly as the players, meaning the Thunder has to be attached to their men on defense for every second of every possession in tonight’s inter-conference matchup. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team will have to contend with a Hawks offense that ranks second overall in assists per game, being keyed in on all five players who are willing to make the extra pass.

Guards like Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson will have to be strong at the top of the key, while those in the frontcourt must be ready for cutters and spot-up shooters, namely three-point marksman Kyle Korver.

“They just do a good job of moving the ball,” Westbrook said. “There’s a lot of movement for them offensively. It’s non-stop movement.”

Fortunately, the Thunder hangs its hat on the defensive end of the floor, where it currently ranks third in field goal percentage defense, forcing opponents to shoot just 42.3 percent from the field, including just 33.7 percent from the three-point line. So far this year, the Thunder has held every single one of its opponents to under 50 percent shooting from the field, and is 5-0 when opponents shoot under 40 percent from the field and 3-0 when opponents score under 90 points.

Regardless, team leaders like Kevin Durant and Nick Collison believe that the Thunder can continue to get better as a unit throughout the season, including tonight in Atlanta. The floor-spacing, quick-moving, pass-happy Hawks will provide a great test for the Thunder as it tries to snag another valuable road victory.

“On the road especially, we have to do a better job of starting the games off with more intensity and more energy,” Durant said. “It’s another challenge for us tonight against a team that plays so well offensively, moves the ball so well and plays hard on the defensive end. So we have our work cut out for us.”

“It’s something that we take pride in and it’s something that we know helps us win basketball games,” Brooks said. “It keeps us in basketball games when we’re not shooting well.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder went 1-1 against the Hawks last season, and overall is 5-4 against Atlanta.

- The Thunder is 3-0 against Eastern Conference teams so far this year.

- The Thunder’s win against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday was the 400th game of Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks’ career as a head coach.

Broadcast Info:

6:30 p.m. CT. TV – Fox Sports Oklahoma, Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network