OKC at LAL Game Preview – Defending the Three-Point Line
Every team that the Thunder faces has its strengths and weaknesses, but tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team faces a bit of an unknown challenge.
The Lakers have had four different starting lineups over the past four games and with Kobe Bryant returning the fold, Los Angeles is in a feeling out process as it continues to find its identity. As a result, the Thunder has the unique task of trying to figure out what the Lakers will try to do tonight. However, if it sticks to its normal routine of looking at its own game plan and trying to execute it as best as it possibly can. By staying consistent to its practices, it can tackle anything the Lakers throw at them.
“It’s hard to figure them out and that’s what’s making it tough to play them,” forward Kevin Durant said. “They play hard, shoot a lot of threes and they run.”
“We always try to focus on us and what we do,” Durant said. “Our defense is not going to change and our offense isn’t going to change no matter who we’re playing.”
While the Thunder wants to push tempo on offense itself, a key tonight will be keeping the Lakers out of fast break situations, forcing them to execute in the half court. The Thunder’s defense has held opponents to just 42 percent shooting so far this season, one of the top marks in the NBA. If Brooks’ club can prevent Los Angeles from getting easy runs to the rim, it feels confident about its chances to get stops and then create scoring opportunities for itself.
“We have to guard their transition, we have to guard the three-point line and guard the pick-and-roll,” Durant explained. “We have to be on point. They really are going to test our defense and we’re looking forward to it.”
Coming into this one, the Lakers have had success from the three-point line, shooting 39.7 percent from behind the arc and making 10.3 threes per game, most in the league. Over the past month, the Thunder’s perimeter defense has played at an extremely high level, preventing opponents from having hot shooting nights from deep. Solid rotations, proper closeouts and communication amongst all five players on the floor has been crucial to the team’s success recently, and it will need to continue again tonight.
“We’ve just been locking in and are focused on trying to stop our man,” Durant said. “Everybody is helping each other out. When we’re talking and communicating we can be really good on defense.”
In the Notes:
- The Thunder went 3-1 against the Lakers last season, and overall is 7-10 against the Lakers.
- The Thunder has held every opponent since November 14th to 40 percent or less shooting from the three-point line. No team has hit more than ten threes against the Thunder in that stretch.
- The Thunder is 6-0 when holding opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the field this season.
7:00 p.m. CT. TV – Fox Sports Oklahoma, Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network