Thunder Hope To Solve Turnover And Defensive Issues

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

A couple things really stood out in Wednesday’s Game2 of the Western Conference Finals, Kevin Durant’s turnovers and Steph Curry’s third quarter barrage.

You can bet yesterday when Thunder coaches and staff were going over tape of both Games 1 & 2 some possible solutions were developed that will be implemented during practice sessions today and Saturday.

First as far as KD’s eight turnovers, his high dribble contributes to some of that especially combined with the way the Warriors are now sending two and sometimes three men his way.

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan indicated after Game 2 that solving that problem would be a collaborative effort.

“He’s gotta do a better job and and we’ve gotta do a better job creating open avenues and gaps for him to either pass it or drive it when teams elect to kinda send somebody at him and provide a lot of help on him.”

The reason Golden State is able to send those extra bodies Durant’s way (and Russell Westbrook at times too) is the way they’ve decided to use Draymond Green and the way they’ve decided to ignore Andre Roberson.

Instead of directly guarding Durant or Westbrook, Green’s assignment (technically) has been Roberson but he’s actually leaving the Thunder shooting guard open most of the time and acting as a sort of free safety, roaming between Durant, Westbrook and at times Dion Waiters or even Steven Adams.

All of those changes forces Durant to have to make quick decisions about what to do when that extra help comes.

“We got (Durant) the ball in the middle of the floor a lot where he’s kind of able to make some plays,” Donovan said. “But when he’s up there playmaking and they’re coming at him those are the quick decisions (he has to make) and I think Kevin watching the film will have a chance to get better from it.”

The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel also pointed out an interesting stat, six of KD’s eight turnovers occurred when Roberson was on the floor. Another indication that Green is ignoring Roberson so he can double-up on Durant.

One change Donovan may be considering is limiting Roberson’s minutes, perhaps even starting Waiters so that Green (or someone) would have to pay more attention to the Thunder shooting guard position.

Anthony Morrow could also be a consideration but Waiters is a much better defender and against the Warriors that talent will come in handy.

As far as defending Curry, the Thunder have actually done a pretty good job so far in the series and that includes about 46 minutes of Game 2.

That two minute stretch, from 7:09 to 5:11 left in the third quarter Curry scored 15 straight points on a combination of long jumpers and free throws. During that stretch he was 4-for-4, from the field and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. The rest of the game he was he was 5-for-11 overall, 1-for-1 from the line and scored 13 points, about as unspectacular as Curry could be for those 46 minutes.

Those other two though lit a fire and changed the game.

“There’s certain situations where you’re gonna get in a bind (on defense),” Donovan said, “and you’ve gotta communicate your way through those things. I thought in Game 1 we did a pretty good job of doing that and I thought here (in Game 2) we let him get a little bit loose. We’ve gotta do a better job there of staying attached and connected and trading him off (on a switch) when we need to trade him off.”

Donovan and his staff have done a solid job so far of adjusting throughout the playoffs. Now comes their biggest challenge, the Thunder likely can’t afford to lose either of these two home games coming up if they’re to have a realistic shot at getting past the Warriors to the NBA Finals.

Today at practice we may get the first clues as to just how the Thunder plan to address these issues so check back this afternoon for updates including full audio of our interview sessions with Donovan and the players.