Thunder Need To Get Defensive In LA
As bad as the Thunder defense seems to be lately, the Lakers defense has been even worse over the last few games.
No team has had more trouble stopping opponents from scoring than the Lakers. They've allowed a league-worst 112.5 points per game since New Year's Day. Things have gone from bad to worse in the past three games as Los Angeles has given up an average of 136 (!!)points on 56.3 percent shooting.
Not surprisingly, the Lakers, 21-42 (worst record in the Western Conference) lost all three contests, the latest happening Friday in a 134-126 defeat at Denver. They became the first team since Golden State in 2008 to allow 130 or more points in three consecutive games. No team has done it in four straight since Denver in 1990.
But it certainly could happen today because your Thunder are as hot on offense as they are cold on defense.
Since the last day of last month, Oklahoma City, now 46-16 (tied with San Antonio and Indiana for the best record in the NBA) has been the top-scoring team in the league, averaging 119.0 points in four games on 51.4 percent shooting. Kevin Durant has led the way, putting up 35.3 points per game to boost his league-high scoring average to 31.8.
The Thunder won the first three games of that stretch but dropped their most recent contest, 128-122 at Phoenix on Thursday despite 36 points from Russell Westbrook and 34 from Durant. Defense let them down, blowing a 16-point lead and allowing 40 in the third quarter. The Suns went 15-for-27 from 3-point range, the second-most 3-pointers Oklahoma City has allowed this season.
"It's just defending and being locked in for four straight quarters," Westbrook said. "We had some good five-minute stretches throughout the game, but we have to play all 48 minutes."
"We can score with the best of them and can score on anybody, anytime, but we have to be able to stop people from scoring."
The Lakers have been hot and cold on offense. They scored 126 points the other night against the Nuggets and have averaged 115.6 points over their last five games. But they've looked inept on that end of the floor at times too.
Though they held the Thunder under 130 points in both meetings this season, the Lakers lost both as Durant averaged 37.0 points.
The Thunder have won 12 of 15 against the Lakers, including the 2012 playoffs, with Durant scoring more than 30 points in 11 of those games.
The teams play again Thursday back here in Oklahoma City. The Thunder will host former teammate James Harden and his Houston Rockets on Tuesday.
It would be nice to see some stout defense today against the Lakers (whether it's needed or not) just to get the Thunder reacquainted with it, because they will certainly need a strong defensive effort at home Tuesday night.