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Oklahoma City Thunder trying to get defense back on track

From NBA media reports

Offense comes, defense goes for Thunder

Getting Paul George back from a one-game absence due to knee soreness? That’s good. Sitting down Andre Roberson against Dallas Sunday with knee tendinitis? That’s bad, and maybe of greater impact than George’s return for an Oklahoma City team that has been sputtering defensively.

Roberson’s value to the Thunder is on the defensive end, both in his individual defense and his overall work in whatever scheme OKC coach Billy Donovan favors. But given his team’s newfound issues — owing at least in part to limited practice time, per The Oklahoman’s Eric Horne — Roberson was missed. Like so many assignments:

In a 116-113 loss to Dallas to close out 2017, Donovan zeroed in on the Thunder defense’s slippage, an inconvenience just as the offense has found its rhythm.

“We’ve played 18 games in 31 days and had very little practice time,” Donovan said. “I think there’s been a lot of slippage. The only way you can correct it and deal with it is you try to show it on film and point it out.

“We need to get back to our identity as an elite defensive team.”

In points allowed per 100 possessions, there’s not much separating the No. 1 (Boston, 100.8) from the Thunder’s sixth-ranked defense (102.3). But the Thunder’s defense has taken a slight dip in its last five games, giving up 109.7 points per 100, 20th in the league.

Dallas shot 51.7 percent from the field and made 15-of-34 3-pointers (44.1 percent).

“The 3-point line got us, and then pick-and-rolls got us,” said Josh Huestis, who started his first NBA game for Roberson at shooting guard. “They were able to get a lot of lobs, and late passes to the bigs for easy layups. That’s something we dropped the ball on. We drilled it and talked about it, but it’s something we just weren’t locked in on tonight.”

Russell Westbrook had 38 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists. George scored 25 points and Carmelo Anthony added 21. But the game was decided by Smith’s slicing and dicing of the OKC defense, and Dallas’ O shooting over the Thunder’s D. Which is to say, in the NBA, there’s always something that needs work.

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