OKC Thunder notebook: OKC not taking Cleveland lightly after last year's surprise
The Thunder is seeking its fourth straight win Sunday night when Cleveland makes its lone visit to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
But don't expect the Thunder to overlook the 2-4 Cavs.
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“It kind of had me scared today in the film room the way the coaches were,” said center Kendrick Perkins. “I thought we were playing the damn Dream Team.”
Cleveland shocked OKC last season, winning by six on the Thunder's home court. The Cavs are even better this year, with reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving now flanked by this year's fourth overall pick Dion Waiters.
“They're 20 years old and they're doing things that most 20-year-olds are not able to do,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “They read the game. They see the game at a very good pace. Their pick-and-roll game is some of the best in basketball, and they shoot the ball very well. Both guys are big time NBA 3-point shooters.”
The Thunder's biggest concern is the Cavs' pick-and-roll.
“They are the best pick-and-roll team in the league,” Perkins said. “You've got Waiters and you got Irving who can come off and pull up at the 3 at any time. I think Irving's shooting 46 percent. Waiters is shooting 52 percent from 3, and they both can split the pick-and-roll, get in the paint and cause havoc. So it's a lot on the bigs.”
Cavs center Anderson Varejao also is healthy this time around. He missed last year's game with a broken wrist. But he's been on a tear to start this season, averaging 14 points and 14 rebounds. His presence will only put more pressure on a Thunder team that has struggled to rebound this season. OKC got out-rebounded last year by Cleveland 51-40 without Varejao in the lineup.
“He's just non-stop energy,” Perkins said of Varejao. “I think we've just got to control him, just maintain him. I think we've got to put a body on him, bump him up early a little bit. We just got to make it a grind game.”
SCRUTINIZING WESTBROOK'S SHOOTING STRUGGLES
Russell Westbrook continues to struggle shooting the ball in the early part of this season, but Brooks said Saturday that he isn't concerned.
Westbrook is shooting just 36.4 percent from the floor and 25 percent from behind the 3-point line. Despite Westbrook averaging four 3-point attempts, which are 1.2 per game fewer than Kevin Martin's team-leading average, and 1.2 per game more than Kevin Durant, Brooks didn't express any uneasiness about how Westbrook is performing thus far.
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