Thunder's Versatility On Defense Will Come In Handy Against Warriors

Thunder big men go through a shooting drill at the end of Sunday's practice. (Photo By Randy Renner/

Thunder big men go through a shooting drill at the end of Sunday's practice. (Photo By Randy Renner/

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

When the Golden State Warriors get out in transition there tends to be a scramble on defense as teams try to get back in coverage.

For teams that don’t have several players who can cover several positions it can mean almost automatic points for a team like Golden State.

But for a team like the Thunder, versatility is a trademark and many players are capable of guarding multiple positions.

“For us it starts with communication,” said Thunder guard Dion Waiters after Sunday’s practice.

Waiters regularly defends point guards, shooting guards and small forwards and then in some cases, he’s had to go up against even much bigger guys.

“I kinda look forward to them kinda matchups,” he said. “When a (bigger) guy think he got a mismatch and he think he’s gettin’ an easy one. I like that, so keep ‘em comin’.”

Thunder guard Dion Waiters talks to reporters after practice. (Photo By Randy Renner/

Thunder guard Dion Waiters talks to reporters after practice. (Photo By Randy Renner/

And when they’re coming in transition Waiters said Thunder coaches are stressing to the players they don’t necessarily have to get to the man they’re normally guarding.

“Not running to your man but running to a man,” Waiters said. “That’s the most important thing, just getting back in transition and finding the threat. Just stopping the ball.”

Of course with the Warriors finding a threat is easy enough because just about any of their players can fill that role at any given time.

Finding the threat is more difficult in any given situation but Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are guys you can’t afford not to find.

“Them two guys in transition is very dangerous,” Waiters agreed. “So you gotta try and get it out of their hands.”

And even better you’d like to limit the number of times the Warriors are able to get out and run. Golden State tends to force a lot of turnovers, the Thunder tend to turn the ball over a lot. Not a good combination and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said even though the Thunder generally played well in three regular season games against the Warriors “the one thing that stood out to me in all three games was the number of turnovers we had.”

And actually the Thunder had only one horrific turnover game and that was the epic 121-118 overtime loss on February 27th in OKC when they had 23. And even with all those the Thunder had their chances and ultimately lost on that 37-foot, 3-pointer from Curry with a half second left in overtime.

The two games played in Oakland the Thunder had 14 and 15 turnovers but the Warriors magnify every one because they’re so good in transition and then scoring points off whatever turnovers they generate.

“Those turnovers really make it difficult to get back and get matched up because they shoot it and they space it so well,” Donovan said. “So that’s an area where we’ve gotta take better care of the basketball.”

Of course Donovan knows that’s not always going to happen. The Warriors are going to get loose and get open and hit shots and make runs.

“They’re a great team, there’s gonna be some breakdowns, it’s not gonna be perfect all the time,” he noted so how the Thunder respond to those breakdowns and those Warrior runs becomes critical.

“Can we play through those emotional swings? You know when they make threes, when they make spectacular plays like deep, deep shots. It’s gonna happen sometimes and being able to play through that is going to be a big challenge for us as well.”

That’s why Waiters believes it’s best to try and avoid as many of those situations as possible and getting physical with the Warriors, pushing them around and moving them off their spots is the way to go.

“I just try to be physical and make it tough on ‘em all night. I enjoy it to be honest with you. I like the physicality, just makin’ it tough for them.”

The Thunder flew to the Bay Area after today’s practice and the team will shootaround tomorrow morning in San Francisco before bussing over to Oakland for the game.


Randy RennerComment