Scoring Distribution Helps Thunder Succeed
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have scored in double figures in every game this season. Their mission every night, however, has been to ensure that others in the Thunder lineup make that kind of impact in the scoring column as well.
Head Coach Scott Brooks’ Thunder squad is 23-2 this season when five-or-more players score ten-or-more points in a game.
That’s a nice indicator that when the team shares the ball and players knock down shots, they Thunder is very difficult to defeat. The fact that through 71 games the Thunder has accomplished that feat 25 times compared to only 11 times in last season’s 66-game schedule is a sure sign that leaders like Westbrook and Durant are getting teammates involved.
“You’d love to have that every night,” Brooks said. “It means that everybody is making shots, everybody is getting opportunities to score… Everybody has to help make that basket count by setting a good screen and by delivering the ball. We’re one of the best offensive teams because we’re good and we execute our plays.”
As the team’s starting point guard who plays nearly 36 minutes per game, it is Westbrook’s duty, above all, to stay aggressive. He ranks in the top ten in both points and assists per game by having his foot down on the gas pedal at all times, but has made a concerted effort this season to get his teammates the ball in positions where they can flourish.
By repeatedly being in attack mode in the first quarter this season, Westbrook has often posted both his highest scoring and highest assist quarters in the first quarter. That ability to get the ball moving around the floor and teammates involved in the fourth quarter helps open things up for the entire team in the later stages of the game.
“It’s important for us to be able to give everybody confidence and make everybody feel comfortable in their games and what they’re doing for this team,” Westbrook said. “It’s important for us to do that every night.”
As Brooks stated, the Thunder has the league’s highest scoring offense along with the best point differential in the league. In order to create that, the team also has to have an excellent defense, which is really what the team prides itself on the most.
One way in which the Thunder’s offensive scoring distribution has been aided is by the Thunder’s ability to get stops on the defensive end. By forcing misses, blocking shots and making steals, the Thunder can get out into the open floor and run.
“You get extra opportunities because you’re defending and you’re rebounding and you’re not giving them offensive rebounds,” Brooks said. “Not many teams want to run with us and we know we can play multiple styles, but we like to get out and run off of our defense. Our first three steps are pretty good and we want to continue to build on those habits. Offensively we want to get out and run in transition.”
Once out in space with opportunities for three-on-twos, two-on-ones or secondary fast breaks, the Thunder can more easily identify the open man. Contending with an opposing defense that isn’t set and ready makes decisions for the ball-handler much easier, and it also allows complementary scoring options find their preferred spots on the floor earlier in the shot clock. With those advantages already in place, the Thunder uses its defense to spring openings on offense to get into the paint, find open shooters or draw fouls.
“It gives people opportunities to get out on the break and get easy baskets,” Westbrook said. “You get to the free throw line. It gives everybody individual confidence about themselves and about their game.”