The Thunder is 5-0 this season when it out-rebounds an opponent. The ugly truth about that stat, though, is the most telling thing about it is not the perfect record but the harsh reality that the Thunder has out-rebounded only five opponents in 15 games. So far, the Thunder has been able to overcome that hurdle, going 6-2 in games in which the opponent has won the battle of the boards and 1-1 in games that the rebounding category ends in a tie.
But the Thunder's performance Wednesday was as bad as we've seen, and the lack of focus finally proved costly. Washington's 19 offensive rebounds tied Memphis' tally from Dec. 28 as the Thunder's opponent high.
“We play great defense and get a stop and they miss a shot and tip a shot out and it deflates your whole team,” said Kevin Durant, who leads the team with 6.9 rebounds per game.
The cure, players and coaches say, can be found in focusing on the fundamentals.
“All of us have been pretty bad at getting box outs this year,” Collison said. “You can't consistently finish the play if you're just trying to rely on out-jumping, because the ball goes different places and you're playing against really good athletes.”
The second-chance opportunities the Thunder is allowing from not closing out possessions with a rebound have squandered sound defensive efforts. Oklahoma City is sixth in the league in defensive field-goal percentage, yielding just 42.4 percent from the field, as well as an extremely impressive 30 percent clip from downtown.
“I think we're defending well this year,” Collison said. “But we're not finishing the play. We're giving teams more possessions and that, combined with when we have high-turnover games, is like giving the team the ball 15 to 20 times, letting them score and then starting the game and going back and forth. It's really tough to beat teams like that. The good news is we know we can play much better.”