Get Back on Defense to Spring Out on Offense – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC vs. DEN

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

Broadcast Information

  • Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. CT
  • Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
  • Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network

The open court needs to be a one-way street tonight. As the Thunder hosts the Denver Nuggets to kick start a stretch of 7-of-8 games at home, ensuring that this one doesn’t become a track meet is vital. Slowing down Denver into the halfcourt, then exploding out into space should be the recipe for OKC.

Patrick Patterson

One of the Thunder’s strengths all season long has been its transition defense, where it currently sits in sixth place by holding opponents to just 9.2 fast-break points per game. Denver is a team that loves to push it, even more than the Thunder. Head Coach Billy Donovan has helped his club get to sixth in the NBA with 14.0 fast break points per game. The Nuggets are in fifth with an average of 14.9. Whoever wins that battle of the open floor could be the victors tonight.

“They like to get up and down in transition so making sure we get back after we shoot it, taking care of the ball, limit our turnovers and try to protect the paint as much as possible,” forward Patrick Patterson said. “They’re a great three-point shooting team but their three-point shots open up as they penetrate to the basket, so protecting our paint, firing out and our defensive principles, realizing who we’re guarding and getting back in transition.”

“It’s one part of the game that I think you can pretty much cut out in terms of allowing teams to score,” forward Paul George added. “In half court sets, teams make shots or hit big shots or contested shots, but transition is all about effort. And that’s definitely something you can control.”

Paul George

Getting out and running could certainly help a Thunder offense that is in need of a jolt. But the only way to do that is if the team plays consistent, physical and coordinated defense. Regardless of who is on the floor, the communication must be constant and players must be available and ready to help over from the weak side.

The Nuggets feature drivers like Will Barton, Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris who have the ability to attack off the bounce and get into the lane. That means the Thunder’s toughness and resolve at the point of attack will be critical tonight.

“Realizing that you have to guard your man one-on-one is very important, but if your man does get by you, with our defensive principles and schemes that we have, make sure that our help is there to trap the box, protect the paint and being able to x-out and properly cover the next guy," Patterson said.

Russell Westbrook

Nick's Notebook

- Steven Adams will miss his second consecutive game due to a concussion he sustained in overtime against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. The Thunder is well aware of the impact Adams can have on both ends of the floor, so it’ll be a group effort to make up for the Big Kiwi’s absence.

“It’s a collective, shared load. We all have to communicate and make up for what he gives us out there. It was evident,” Patterson explained. “I feel like it was evident versus the Knicks. His defensive presence, his presence in the pick and roll, blocking shots, protecting the paint, rebounding, overall his physical nature was definitely missing throughout the course of that game. Without him out there, collectively as a group, we have to make up for it. Talking, communication, being more physical into our man on defense and helping each other out more.”
“We've got to fill that void in so many different areas with Steven being out. He’s a big piece, and not having him out there definitely limits us to an extent,” George added. “But we all have to fill a lot of voids that Steven brings from a physicality standpoint. It’s just next man up.”

- Patterson is one of the handful of players along with Nick Collison and Dakari Johnson that will likely have an increased minutes load tonight with Adams out, and more time on the floor for Patterson could be a fantastic thing for the Thunder as a unit. It’s clear that physically Patterson has recovered from the knee surgery that ailed him during training camp. Last game against New York, he registered a season-high with 12 points and four made three-pointers. He also grabbed five rebounds, blocked two shots, made two steals and dished out an assist.

    “(Patterson) is starting to move really well. He’s starting to rotate,” George noticed. “He’s starting to play a little above the rim. You can tell all that is from him getting healthy and getting his body transitioned for this.”

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