Consistent Defense the Goal Against Timberwolves

There are typically around 200 possessions in an NBA game. On every single one, the Thunder tries to be as locked in as possible.

Tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club will try to stick to its principles, communicate with one another and produce a positive outcome on each one of those possessions. Offensively the Thunder knows it has a lineup capable of putting up big numbers, so its primary focus comes on the defensive end. Leaders like Kevin Durant want the team to be in tune for all four quarters on defense.

“We have to put it together for 48 minutes,” Durant said. “Just playing hard, it’s not going to be perfect. But just playing harder and just small things like not turning the ball over, running our sets hard, getting into our offense quicker and just doing the small things.”

The Timberwolves under Head Coach Rick Adelman are difficult to guard despite not being a prolific three-point shooting team so far this year. Most of their work comes in the paint, where big men like Nikola Pekovic and others roll hard to the rim and use their strength, size and athleticism to create high-percentage shot opportunities. It is important for the Thunder to maintain a physical presence inside the lane and to make contact with the opposing big men throughout the night.

“We have to do a really good job of closing up the paint,” Durant said. “They’re really good in pick and rolls and pass the ball so well. We have to make the second and third efforts, then rebound.”

While Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins will be protecting the painted area, Durant, Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook will all have to aid in the full five-man effort. By being physical as big men run to the rim and making quick but measured close-outs to the Timberwolves’ guards, the Thunder must concentrating on each of their duties.

Minnesota may score a lot of points in the paint, but it starts with their three-headed guard combination of Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea, all of whom the Thunder has to deal with.

“Their guards are very crafty,” Brooks said. “They’re cerebral players. Rubio is one of the best passers. Luke, he doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention, but he is really a solid point guard. They play those two together, then JJ comes in. All three are skilled point guards who make plays for their team. They’re tough to guard.”

Fortunately with players like Westbrook, Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson and Kevin Martin on the perimeter, the Thunder has players who can make life difficult for opponents on the outside. By pressuring the ball, making entry passes from the top of the key difficult and disrupting the timing of the pick-and-roll, the Thunder was able to effectively limit the productivity of the Timberwolves’ offense the last time these teams met in January at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Brooks and company hopes to see the same type of effort tonight.

“We were aggressive on the basketball,” Brooks said. “We were very active with our hands. We were good in pick-and-rolls. We were good in transition. We were rebounding the ball… I thought we were really good on our home court.”

The Thunder’s general recipe for success is to turn its defense into offense. Getting steals, blocking shots and snagging defensive rebounds are all great ways to kick-start an offensive possession and create advantage situations. Those offensive possessions, however, can also be an important factor in how the Thunder defends the Timberwolves as well.

Brooks’ squad wants to play an, unselfish, up-tempo style and force its opponent to take the ball out of the basket, giving the Thunder a chance to set up its half-court defense and keep Minnesota on its heels tonight.

“We have to get the ball out and run,” Durant said. “We have to move the ball. I think we did a really good job of that last game. ”