NEWARK, N.J. — Fast-talking Washington coach Flip Saunders stood near center court before Wednesday night's game against Oklahoma City spewing praise on the Thunder for the second straight day.
After gushing over the team's All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Saunders shifted gears and shared his admiration for the Thunder's big men. He called the four-man rotation of Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed the NBA's best foursome up front.
Approximately three hours later, Saunders watched his two-man tandem of Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee own the glass against the quartet he had just spent so much time commending.
The Wizards out-rebounded the Thunder 52-43 in their three-point stunner over OKC on Wednesday. Washington had a commanding 19-6 advantage on the offensive end. Blatche and McGee — who outrebounded the Thunder's four post players 21-18 — combined for more offensive boards (nine) than the Thunder mustered as a team.
It was only the continuation of the Thunder's season-long trend of poor rebounding.
“We're trying to win jumping contests,” said forward Nick Collison “and that's tough in the NBA. That's definitely something we need to clean up. It's hurt us all year.”
Entering Friday's games, the Thunder ranked 18th in rebounding differential at an even minus-1. Most alarming is the league-worst 13.3 offensive rebounds the Thunder has allowed, as OKC has yielded at least 10 offensive rebounds in each game this season.
Additionally, only Sacramento, Phoenix, Washington and New Jersey — four teams with a combined 21 wins before Friday's games — had a worse defensive rebounding percentage rate than the Thunder's 71 percent.
A year ago, Oklahoma City ranked sixth in the league in rebounding differential with a plus-2.2 margin. Then yielding 11.4, the Thunder allowed almost a full two fewer offensive rebounds than it has this season.
“We have to keep getting better because that's the scouting report on us,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “(Opponents) are going to attack the boards, and they're going to try to get extra shots because they know we defend the first shot.”