OKC at LAL Preview – Three-Point Defense

LOS ANGELES – In the NBA, practice time on the road is a luxury.

With two full days in Los Angeles before its game against the Lakers on Sunday, the Thunder had plenty of time to get to work on some of the areas that it wants to improve upon during the final 20 games of the season. On offense, the Thunder wants to move the ball with pace and precision like it has done over the last few weeks. On defense, team leaders like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are ensuring that Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club learns from some mistakes over the past handful of games.

“It’s just getting back to what we do,” Durant said. “Just going over offensive and defensive rotations and schemes. We have to settle down, focus in and we’ll be fine.”

As for the Thunder’s upcoming opponent, the Lakers come into this one shooting 38.3 percent from behind the three-point line, the third best mark in the NBA, while attempting 24.6 shots from behind the arc each game. It will be incumbent on the Thunder to communicate as it runs back from offense to defense, make sure that each man is accounted for on the perimeter and then close out and contest strongly.

“They definitely will challenge your defensive three-point coverage,” Brooks said. “We have to make sure that we match up in transition. We have to make sure we communicate and close out to their shooters and our pick-and-roll coverage is going to have to be on point because they play a lot of small lineups. Offensively, they’re going to challenge our defense, getting back, matching up and getting out to three-point shooters.”

“They’re going to make you work every possession on offense,” Durant explained. “On defense, we have to be on point. We have to stay in front of guys in perimeter defense. The bigs have to protect the paint.”

After a tough loss in Phoenix when the Suns hit 15 three-pointers, the Lakers will provide another interesting test for the Thunder. In the Western Conference there are a number of teams who like to go small, use quick attacking guards and spread out for three-point shots, so Sunday’s game against the Lakers will provide the Thunder another chance to sharpen up its defensive coverages and hone its principles.

“It’s a perfect game for us to try to get back on track defensively,” Durant said. “We’re looking forward to it. We just have to take it a possession at a time and all be in sync on defense, talk, use our length, show presentation and it’s intimidating when we do that because we have a big lineup. So we just have to be ready to do everything we need to do on Sunday, starting at tip off.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 2-0 against the Lakers this season, and overall is 9-10 against Los Angeles in the regular season.

- The Thunder’s recent starting five players (Russell Westbrook, Perry Jones, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams) were all originally drafted by the team.

- The Thunder is 42-12 this season when holding opponents to under 50 percent shooting and just 4-4 when opponents shoot above 50 percent.

Broadcast Info:

2:30 p.m. CT. TV – ABC; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network