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Thunder insider: OKC needs to zone in on zone defense

by Darnell Mayberry Published: April 3, 2011

As they backpedaled on defense, Steve Nash and Aaron Brooks took turns shouting instructions to their team. In the same manner, they both would raise both arms and clinch each of their hands into a fist.

It was the point guards' hand signal for the Phoenix Suns to get into a zone last Wednesday against the Thunder.

Each time they did, the Thunder struggled to find an answer.

That's been a theme all season.

There have been numerous losses this season in which the Thunder has admitted it couldn't properly counter a team's zone defense. On several occasions, the defensive scheme has slowed or shut down the Thunder's offensive attack. With the playoffs beginning in just two weeks, now is the time for the Thunder to settle on a solution.

The last thing the Thunder needs to run into in the postseason, it seems, is an opponent that implements and executes a zone defense. Fortunately for Oklahoma City, the Denver Nuggets, the Thunder's current first-round opponent if the standings hold, use little to no zone. But Portland, which is in sixth place and only three games behind Denver, mixed in a zone throughout several stretches of the last two meetings. And, like Phoenix, it bothered the Thunder.

The Thunder's struggles against a zone have largely been caused by the same problem that plagues many young teams. OKC has grown hesitant the moment a team switches. The Thunder sends too many passes around the perimeter rather than exploring possible gaps within the teeth of the defense. Those passes are a good show of patience, but they generally lead to a 3-point shot that plays right into the defense's hand.

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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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