April 24th, 2013
GAME 2: Thunder vs Rockets

Chesapeake Energy Arena can often be so deafeningly loud that it’s hard to hear yourself think, let alone what someone else is saying.

Thunder players, however, have become masters of the art of communication, whether it is verbal, physical or sometimes seemingly telepathic. Under the tutelage of Head Coach Scott Brooks, the Thunder has developed over the past five seasons into one of the premier defensive units in the league, and it is because of the way the team plays with togetherness and toughness on that end of the floor. Sticking to its defensive principles and being constantly vigilant has allowed the team to make second and third efforts throughout possessions to get stops.

“It’s always about five guys being on a string and understanding when there is movement on one side of the court, we have to move on the other side of the court defensively,” Brooks said.

As it was in Game One against the Houston Rockets in this first round matchup, the Thunder will need to keep their heads up and legs moving in that switch from offense to defense. A key for the Thunder to stop the Rockets’ potent fast break attack is to communicate with one another in order to make sure everyone picks up a Rocket to defend. In Game One the Thunder trusted everyone from Reggie Jackson to Kendrick Perkins to switch onto the other player’s man, creating a fluid defense built on communication and togetherness.

“We have to make sure we communicate in transition,” Perkins said. “When you’re talking (through) their plays and stuff like that, sometimes it makes them go away from what they’re trying to do. We’re going to keep communicating, all five guys on the court and just try to control the game that way.”

The Thunder ultimately wants the Rockets to play offense in a half-court set as opposed to turning tonight’s contest into a fast break competition. By getting back on defense, the Thunder can use its length, quickness and strength to force Houston into taking contested shots. Once in the half-court set, Houston will try to run plenty of pick-and-rolls, which Jackson as a point guard knows about all too well. NBA teams run somewhere around 60 pick-and-roll plays every single game, so for a defense, communication between the point guard and the other four men behind the play is essential in order to cover it correctly.

“Our bigs do a great job of calling out our coverages in the pick-and-roll,” Jackson said. “We’ve been doing it all season, working on it. It’s been tremendous to this point; they just call out the coverage with you. With 18,000 people it’s kind of hard to hear, but with everybody calling it, we have each other’s back. We’re hearing each other’s voices. For a point guard, it’s essential.”

Thanks to players like Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison on the back line, Thunder guards know whether to square their man up defensively, attack the screening action or to push the ball-handler one way or the other.

The confidence with which the Thunder plays can partially be attributed to the way it talks to one another on the defensive end. That constant chatter can be intimidating to opponents as they bring the ball up court. With a determined, focused mindset and united play on the offensive end, the Thunder also looks to its defensive execution to try to take Game Two, tonight.

“We’re ready,” Perkins said. “We just have to make sure we do a great job of continuing to make them take contested two’s and I thought each guy covered each other last game. We had each other’s back. The trust factor was there, and it was a good thing.”