Boxing Out, Defensive Rebounding Key Tonight

When it comes to scouting its opponent, the Thunder leaves no stone unturned.

In preparation for tonight’s matchup at Chesapeake Energy Arena against the Brooklyn Nets, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ Thunder squad took an in depth look at how it fared against the Nets a month ago in the Barclays Center, but also how its opponent has operated over the past week. The Nets recently made a coaching change, putting PJ Carlesimo at the helm in an interim capacity. As a result, the Thunder must focus on the tendencies the Nets have displayed throughout the season, but also detect any wrinkles Carlesimo might have thrown in over the past week or so.

“It’s a combination,” Brooks said. “Obviously they made the coaching change a few games ago. They’re still the same players. They’re going to run the same system. They might have a little tweak here and there with PJ (Carlesimo), but I think they have some very good players… We’re going to have to do a good job, because they have an outstanding point guard, good wing players and a very, very good post player.”

The Nets roll out a roster with more new faces than old from last season, but with its core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez, Brooklyn is a more-than-formidable foe. While the Nets are still gelling as a unit and finding new ways to be successful on the floor, there’s one area that the Thunder knows it must be cognizant of – the defensive glass.

“That was a big part of our shoot around today, we talked about that,” Brooks said. “We feel confident enough that we make teams miss. We have to lock in and get the rebound and secure the rebound before we run out.”

The Nets rank 10th in the NBA in offensive rebounds and 7th in offensive rebound percentage, grabbing 29.5 percent of their own missed shots. The Thunder typically snags 73.6 percent of opponents’ missed shots, so it will be a battle on the glass all night. The most important aspect of team defense, really, is the ability to secure the rebound after a locked in possession.

Forcing an opponent to miss a shot turns out to mean quite little if the play results in a wide open put-back layup for the opponent. As a result, Kevin Durant described today that the Thunder can’t simply rely on big men like Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet to play physically under the rim, but that it is up to all five men on the floor to assume correct defensive position and concentrate on executing a proper box out before getting out and running with the ball.

“First off you have to be in position to be there for your teammates in help defense,” Durant said. “When you’re guarding the ball one-on-one, you have to be in a stance to be ready to expect anything - a shot, a drive, or a pass. Once your guy doesn’t have the ball, that doesn’t mean you don’t play defense or be ready for a rebound. It’s just always being in a stance and being ready for anything to happen.”

Of course, all of that rebounding talk is moot unless Brooks’ squad can get a stop or force a missed shot. Currently the Thunder ranks second in the NBA in field goal percentage defense by only allowing opponents to shoot 42.7 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from the three point line. In addition, the Thunder forces 14.3 turnovers per game, and ranks second in total rebounds allowed. All of those factors add up to getting stops and preventing easy baskets, something the Thunder is intent on doing tonight.

“We’re going to have to play defense tonight,” Brooks said. “We’re going to have to rebound because they can get offensive rebounds and extra possessions.”