Thunder Focusing on Nuggets, Pick-and-Roll Defense

Head Coach Scott Brooks and the Thunder haven’t seen the Denver Nuggets since the two teams’ five-game playoff series last season, but the home-standing Thunder is highly aware of the way Denver wants to play. Nuggets Coach Geroge Karl is a well-known fixture in the NBA, so Brooks has his team prepared for what will be an intense contest tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“George plays an aggressive style of play,” Brooks said. “They’re fast. Their wings are as fast as any wings in the league. (Corey) Brewer is running the floor. (Ty) Lawson is pushing the ball. They’re playing with incredible pace and we have to definitely get back in transition. … You have to run back quickly and our bigs are going to have to do a good job of helping out our guards to contain Lawson. He just gets into the paint and causes so much concern for the opponent.”

Even rookie point guard Reggie Jackson, who has never played against the Nuggets, seemed locked in on what Denver will try to do tonight. As a Colorado native and a player who has received input from the rest of the guys in the Thunder locker room, Jackson has learned that Denver hopes to utilize its speed and quickness, particularly from the point guard spot, to create its ideal pace in the game.

“We know they want to get out in transition,” Jackson said. “We have to stop the head of the engine, we have to try to slow down Ty Lawson. He’s a great player, heady, quick, strong. We’re going to have to try to keep him out of transition for the most part and then go from there.”

As a team, the Thunder typically works on improving themselves first, and as a result can utilize that development to attack other team's strengths and weaknesses. One aspect of the game that all teams are adapting to is the extremely prevalent use of the pick-and-roll. Brooks has noted on multiple occasions that NBA offenses are typically running 50 to 60 pick-and-roll plays each game, meaning that all five players on the court must be as one in improving their defensive strategy in those situations. Brooks has seen development from not only the Thunder’s two defenders directly involved in the pick-and-roll, but also from the rest of the squad on the court.

“I think it’s growing with the other three guys not involved with it,” Brooks said. “I think any good defensive team has to be able to cover that and you have to be able to scramble out of it. You have to be able to stay in the play and have multiple efforts. I think our other three guys aren’t just watching, they’re helping.”

With that commitment to honing in on defending the pick-and-roll, the Thunder hopes to contain the Nuggets, and finish it’s home stand before the All-Star Break on a positive note. The Thunder will host the New Orleans Hornets on Monday, the Boston Celtics on Wednesday and the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, but Brooks and his squad aren’t looking beyond tonight. In the NBA, focus has to be high at all times, and the Thunder has done a good job of keying in on each individual opponent.

“You can’t worry about the four games in five nights or the remaining three after tonight,” Brooks said. “You have to focus on tonight. If you don’t, you don’t put yourself in the position to win. Denver is good, they can win on the road. They have a good road record and they have guys that cans score and they have guys that can get hot. We really just focus on tonight.”