OKC at SAC Preview – Working Together to Improve Defense

SACRAMENTO – The Thunder wants to be equally as suffocating defensively on the road as it is at home, which is why tonight’s tilt against the Sacramento Kings can be a step in the right direction.

After handling the Kings’ attack back in Oklahoma City 94-81 on March 28th, the Thunder knows it has the ability to slow down Sacramento, but it must execute on every possession in order to keep the ball out of the bucket. The defensive effort will start immediately after the Thunder’s own shots go up, as the Kings will try to push the ball in transition regardless of whether Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club makes or misses the shot. Team leaders like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Derek Fisher helped the team during today’s shootaround to understand the best ways to keep Sacramento in check.

“We have to keep them out of transition,” Brooks said. “They play a little faster at home. They’re a good home team. Their inside guys can give us problems at the block with Cousins and their offensive rebounding can give us problems.”

“It’s been a focus of ours against teams that like to push the pace, like to penetrate and kick and make a lot of things happen,” Fisher continued. “We have to figure out a better way to slow that down and be more physical without fouling and playing a tougher brand of defense without sending teams to the free throw line.”

If the Thunder can get all five men back and show a wall of defenders to the Kings, it will give itself a better chance to keep Sacramento’s field goal percentage low. Getting set up in the halfcourt means that the Thunder can use its length, quickness, speed and toughness to set the tone, forcing the Kings to take contested shots at the end of the shot clock. Creating those low percentage shot opportunities often starts with the Thunder’s ability to step up to the plate and prevent their man from getting past them on the perimeter with the ball.

“Just individual one-on-one defense,” Durant said. “If we communicate on every possession, that makes up for a lot. It’s stuff that we can control. We have to do the small things in order for the big things to work.”

The Thunder can enhance its defensive efforts tonight by playing well on the offensive end and forcing the Kings to take the ball out of the net each time. By playing a free-flowing, selfless style of basketball where easy decisions are dictated by spacing and what the defense is giving, the Thunder can cause havoc both in transition and in the half court. With playmakers like Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, the Thunder has a deep team full of players who can create shots for themselves or others, without an agenda.

“If we move the basketball and get the opportunities to shoot, we shoot it,” Durant explained. “If we have an opportunity to pass, we’ll pass. We’ll play as simple as possible… It’s really simple on how we should play and if we play together, we’ll do well.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 3-0 against the Kings this season, and overall is 18-3 against Sacramento in the regular season.

- The Thunder is 21-4 this season when five-or-more players score in double figures, and 3-1 when six-or-more players score in double figures.

- The Thunder is also 21-4 when it creates 10-or-more steals and is 5-1 when making 10-or-more blocks.

Broadcast Info:

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