OKC Thunder: Defensive void looms large

The Thunder is 3-4 in its past seven games. A big reason? Too many uncontested shots by the opposition.
by Darnell Mayberry Modified: March 7, 2014 at 10:50 pm •  Published: March 7, 2014
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— Since the All-Star break, the Thunder’s defense has been among the worst in the NBA. And after Thursday’s defensive debacle at Phoenix, no end seems to be in sight.

Over the past seven games, Oklahoma City has allowed 109.2 points per game, 47.5 percent shooting from the field and 41.8 percent shooting from 3-point range.

To put those numbers into context, Philadelphia ranks last in opponent scoring on the season at 111 points per game, the Sixers are tied with Detroit for the worst opponent field-goal percentage at 46.9 percent and Milwaukee ranks last in 3-point defense at 38.2 percent.

“We’ve got to get back to getting stops,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We’ve got to get back to having some toughness on the defensive end.”

The defensive void has become too big to overcome.

Offensively, the Thunder is performing at one of its highest levels of the season, scoring 111.1 points per game since the break.

Yet the defensive ineffectiveness has caused OKC to go 3-4 over the past seven games and fall just a half-game above San Antonio for the Western Conference’s top spot.

“Defensively, that’s got to be our identity,” said Russell Westbrook. “We can score with the best (teams), and we can score on anybody at any time. But we got to be able to stop people from scoring.”

Some of the drop off seen over the last two weeks certainly is due to the loss of two defensive-minded starters. Kendrick Perkins has missed the past six games with a groin injury, and Thabo Sefolosha has missed the last three while sidelined with a calf strain. But their absences alone don’t account for how bad the Thunder has been.

OKC has been whipped in transition and from beyond the 3-point line. The Thunder has watched turnovers lead to easy baskets and mounting fouls result in free points.

Three times in this seven-game stretch, the Thunder has allowed at least 40 points in a quarter. Five times the Thunder has allowed at least 10 3-pointers.

Things don’t seem capable of getting much worse, but a blueprint might be emerging for how to make everything better.

It starts with patching up the perimeter defense.

An examination of contested jump shots by NBA.com last week revealed the Thunder ranks last in the category, contesting just 23.8 percent of jump shots. The league average is 30.9 percent.

While that data isn’t available to the general public, a study of the Thunder’s past seven games on NBA.com/stats show similar struggles contesting all field-goal attempts.

Only twice in the past seven games has the Thunder contested more shot attempts than it left uncontested. The tally for all seven is 267 contested to 297 uncontested, meaning 52.6 percent of OKC’s opponent field goals over the past seven games have been uncontested.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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Thunder at Lakers

•When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

TV: KOCO-5 (Cox 8/HD 705; Dish 5; DirecTV 5; U-verse 5/HD 1005)

Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1/AM 640

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