By Randy Renner
Thunder coach Billy Donovan has talked about defending the 3-point line since training camp with the media and probably long before that with players.
For whatever reason (reasons?) the Thunder have not been able to do it with any consistency, the latest example of failure coming Sunday night in Portland.
Tonight should be different. The Minnesota Timberwolves mostly play inside the arc and down low in the paint. They don’t take many threes and don’t hit very many of the ones they do put up.
Minnesota shoots a league-low 15.2 threes per game, 13 fewer per contest than Portland puts up and that number is dropping. The T-Wolves have lost 10 of their last 11 games and during that stretch they’re averaging launching just 12 long balls a game and making just 3.7 of those attempts for a paltry 31.1 percentage. Overall, Minnesota is scoring only 90.3 points in those same 11 games.
So the Thunder may not have to worry too much about playing great defense and it’s a good thing since they don’t appear to be capable.
Give the Trail Blazers credit for what happened Sunday or at least Damian Lilllard, he just got ridiculously hot during that two minute stretch toward the end of Sunday’s game when he pumped five 3-balls through the nets. We’ve seen what happens when All-Star players get into a groove. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have gone into freak mode many times over the years.
The bigger problem was the 14 threes the Blazers nailed before Lillard’s hot streak and the 20 offensive rebounds they got leading a peach basket full of second chance points.
Donovan has talked about his team’s trouble in keeping opponents off the offensive glass too for several weeks. Some games it happens, some it doesn’t. Consistently inconsistent appears to be a common theme with this season’s Thunder squad.
And even though the T-Wolves appear to be rather toothless at the moment they do have some guys who can bite you if you’re not careful.
Former Thunder shooter Kevin Martin, though he’s been struggling lately and hasn’t even played in some recent games, is capable of big nights and I’m sure he’d love to get hot against his former mates.
Andrew Wiggins has scored 66 points in his last two games and rookie big man Karl Anthony-Towns continues to impress, but the Thunder won't have to worry about him firing from deep.
Still the Timberwolves certainly appear to be a team the Thunder won’t have too many problems controlling. If we’re having this sort of conversation about defensive failings in this space again tomorrow then things are even worse than they seem.
Tipoff is set for 7:10 tonight at the Target Center in Minneapolis, you can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
The Thunder will be back home tomorrow night playing the Dallas Mavericks on the second night of a back-to-back for both teams. The Mavs are hosting Cleveland tonight.