By Addam Francisco
Last nights performance against the San Antonio Spurs was very concerning for our Oklahoma City Thunder. Everyone (including me), has been bragging about this great team we have even without Kevin Durant but theres clearly a problem with defense.
Who can stop somebody? Well, the question can be answered. Starting guard Andre Roberson is that answer to at least part of the problem. In the Spurs 130-91 blowout of our Thunder, Spurs Kawhi Leonard would be the guy Andre would have most likely guarded. He went for only 14 points in this game, 3 below his average, but had a bigger impact on the game because he was able to move around a lot better and feed Tim Duncan under the basket for the easy two points.
This still isn’t too much for the Thunder to worry about in my opinion. With three key defensive-minded players missing out of the lineup (Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka, and Andre Roberson). I do believe that we will be all right. Serge and Nick could have been players for the Thunder to contain Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw and maybe even Tiago Splitter, who combined for 49 points. Thinking about it, who in the current Thunder rotation is a staunch defender anyway? Really no one, for the exception of Steven Adams, but even with him, theres plays he may take off i’ve noticed. This is where I believe the Thunder miss post player Kendrick Perkins. He obviously wasn’t much on the offensive side of the ball but with him on the court, I don't remember seeing any team take over the game within the paint like San Antonio did last night. We really need our defense-oriented players back in the lineup as soon as they can get back because until then, I strongly believe that we are going to have to outscore every quality team in order to beat them which we can’t do against the projected first round match-up against the offensive juggernaut Golden State Warriors. I believe that Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters specifically could be good defensive players due to their footwork and agility, but only if Coach Scott Brooks would focus a little more on defensive play, rather than offensive play. We have the leagues leading scorer in Russell Westbrook, and three other players that average more than 10 points per game not including Durant, so its safe to say that scoring isn't the problem.
Currently, the Spurs are sixth in the Western Conference with a 45-26 record, and the Thunder are four and a half games back with a 41-31 record and eighth in the Western Conference. The injured Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka and Andre Roberson are all expected to miss the remainder of the regular season, but will come back just in time for the playoffs in a few weeks.