OKC at SAC Game Preview – Five-Man Defensive Effort

SACRAMENTO – The Thunder has elite defenders at multiple positions on the floor, but the mark of what makes it a solid defensive team is that all five men on the court are engaged at all times.

It all starts at the top, and tonight against the Sacramento Kings, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson will be called upon to stop dribble penetration and prevent guard Isaiah Thomas from getting into the lane and shaking free for jumpers. Along the perimeter, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant and Jeremy Lamb are also counted on to close out to shooters and to get back in transition to stop the Kings from getting fast break points.

The Kings come into tonight’s game as one of the league’s best at protecting the basketball, so the Thunder will try to force Sacramento into spots where they are uncomfortable and try to get the Kings to make mistakes.

“Our point guard is really good at pressuring the ball, especially bigger guards,” Durant said. “He can get up into them a little bit and force them to do some things they don’t want to do like speed them up a little bit. We’re a long, athletic team from top to bottom. Guys are getting into the passing lanes, making deflections and just playing hard.”

On the interior, the Thunder’s bigs Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Steven Adams have been stymying opposing post players all season. Tonight their challenge will be DeMarcus Cousins, who is 11th in the NBA in scoring and is a load to handle in the paint. Over the years, the Thunder has done a good job of containing Cousins, but it takes a five-man effort to keep him in check.

“You definitely credit our bigs,” Westbrook said. “They do a good job of just keeping a body on him. He’s a big fellow so we have to be together as a team defensively.”

Coming off of the Thunder’s sweep of its six game home stand, the Thunder will kick-start its three-game road trip with its clash against the Kings tonight. With the Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans on the horizon, Head Coach Scott Brooks wants his club to carry over the commitment and determination it played with on defense at home. If it can execute its gameplan on the defensive end of the floor, the Thunder feels confident it can get its road trip started off on the right foot tonight against the Kings.

“We’re going to have to play with the same defensive mindset,” Brooks said. “We’ve talked about starting the game off with more defense… Hopefully tonight we come in with that defensive disposition right from the start.”

“Everyone has to be involved,” Brooks continued. “All five guys have to defend. All five guys have to be on a string defensively. All five guys have to trust each other and all five guys have to rebound. When we do that, we’re a pretty tough defensive team.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder went 3-0 against the Kings last season, and overall is 15-3 against Sacramento.

- The Thunder is 6-0 when it registers the same amount or more assists than its opponent this season.

- The Thunder is 10-1 this season when Serge Ibaka blocks three-or-more shots.

Broadcast Info:

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