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OKC Thunder slowly improving

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY Published: December 18, 2008
The Thunder fell to 1-12 under coach Scott Brooks on Tuesday night, the same mark it held through 13 games when coach P.J. Carlesimo was fired.

So what’s changed?

Look beyond the record, and the Thunder’s transformation can be seen on the practice court and in the locker room, in games and on the final stat sheets.

The most glaring difference has been Oklahoma City’s improved offense.

The Thunder is averaging 8.8 more points under Brooks than it did under Carlesimo. The team’s 88.9-point average under Carlesimo ranked last in the league, while its 97.7 points over the past 13 games would currently rank 15th.

The Thunder’s assists are also up, from 16.6 under Carlesimo to 21.8 under Brooks, and the team’s field-goal percentage has gone from a league-worst 40.4 percent with Carlesimo at the helm to 46.6 percent in the past 13 games.

That offensive efficiency has led to more competitive games. The Thunder lost its 12 games under Carlesimo by an average of 12.3 points. Under Brooks, the average margin of defeat has been trimmed to 7.6

"We have to continue to improve,” Brooks said. "Sometimes it takes smaller steps than we all would like, but it’s important to improve every day in practice. If we continue to do that, these close games that we’re not winning will fall our way due to the hard work that we’re putting into it.”

The biggest difference between Carlesimo and Brooks is Brooks has allocated the players more freedom offensively.

In his first move as head coach, Brooks slid Durant from shooting guard to small forward and Jeff Green from small forward to power forward. The switch enabled Green to be more of an offensive threat due to nightly mismatches while giving Durant some relief with the scoring load.

As a result, both players’ averages are up nearly across the board. Green is averaging 17.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists under Brooks. Durant has averages of 25.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists under Brooks.

Point guards Russell Westbrook and Earl Watson have been given the green light to call plays and adjust on the fly to defenses. Perimeter players are also being encouraged to shoot more as evidenced by the team’s average of 12.2 3-point attempts under Brooks compared to 7.9 under Carlesimo.

Spacing and ball movement have been Brooks’ biggest points of emphasis, which has presented the Thunder with better looks and explains the boost in assists and field-goal percentage.

How the Thunder has performed through 13 games under P.J. Carlesimo and Scott Brooks:

Stat Carlesimo Brooks
Points for 88.9 97.7
Points against 101.2 105.3
Scoring differential 12.3 7.6
Rebounds 44.6 37.5
Opponent rebounding 45.5 40.3
Assists 16.6 21.8
Steals 6.7 7.7
Blocks 4.4 5.0
Turnovers 17.0 14.9
Field goal % 40.4 46.6
Opponent FG % 45.3 50.5
3-point percentage 35.9 37.7
Opponent 3-point % 34.2 40.4
Free throw % 76.6 74.1
Points in the paint 41.8 44.1
Opponent points in the paint 46.6 43.6
By Darnell Mayberry


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