Thunder Roll Again But Defense Still A Problem
By Randy Renner
The Thunder offense has been rolling in February and March, despite the absence for most all of that time of Kevin Durant.
Last night was no exception OKC scored 127 points with a very balanced, inside-outside attack that the Lakers had no hope of stopping or even slowing down.
The problem has been on defense and last night OKC gave up 117 points on 51.8 percent shooting to a Lakers squad that had only been averaging 98.9 points on 43.7 percent shooting.
And now the Thunder are heading out on the road where they are just 14-21 this season and just 1-4 since February 26th.
The Thunder have been to get comfortable with each other at home lately where they've played eight of their last nine games. That home stretch has offered opportunities for practice sessions which had been rare before the All-Star break. Those practices have come in handy as the Thunder break in a batch of new teammates acquired at the trade deadline.
The injuries to Durant and all the others through the season and then the trades have given Scott Brooks and his coaches opportunities to change some things up and no where is that more evident than Oklahoma City's new post game featuring Enes Kanter.
Kanter has a lot of work to do on defense but his scoring and rebounding numbers have been through the roof. Last night he had a double-double after the 1st quarter and went on to score 25 points and grab 16 rebounds. Steven Adams, the other half of the "Bruise Brothers" dropped 16 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and Mitch McGary, getting increased playing time because of Nick Collison's injury had seven points and 10 rebounds.
So the Thunder's trio of young bigs scored 48 points and grabbed 36 rebounds. That dimension of the Thunder's game has changed things dramatically and given more opportunities for Russell Westbrook to orchestrate a more diverse offense and dominate. Westbrook had 27 points and 11 assists against the Lakers.
Dion Waiters has come on strong too ever since a lengthy discussion and film session with Brooks. He had 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting last night and Anthony Morrow has made teams pay for giving him so many open looks, he had 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
The question now becomes can the Thunder's offense play on the road? This season they're averaging 100.5 points in road games. This month, in just three games away from The Peake, the numbers are better 109.3 points but OKC lost two of those three games because the defense gave up an average of 109.3 points also.
Improvement has to come on defense and the Thunder's first big challenge with their revamped roster comes this week out on the road beginning in San Antonio tonight and continuing in Salt Lake City on Friday and Phoenix on Sunday.