Pistons' next stop: OKC

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (0-5) at Oklahoma City Thunder (3-2)
  • Date: November 9, 2012
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The defending Western Conference champions are coming off a road victory at Chicago last night and seem to be rounding into form after starting out the season with losses at the hands of San Antonio and Atlanta.

At the moment, Scott Brooks’ unit is playing well on both ends of the court, appearing in the top 10 of both offensive and defensive efficiency rankings.

On offense, Oklahoma City is converting 46.4 percent of their shots from the field (eighth in the NBA) and also manufacturing 26.4 free throw attempts per game (third in the league).

The Thunder do a good job of utilizing Kevin Durant as well as the players around him to get a multitude of different looks from all over the court. For instance, OKC might have KD come off a pin down screen for a catch shoot, where he is a lethal shooter; but should that initial action be well defended, the Texas product can still put the ball on the floor and head to the rim and dish off to a player for an open jumper after the defense clogs up the paint.

Brooks also likes to put Durant in pick-and-roll situations with Kendrick Perkins, to pull weak side defenders into the lane and give Serge Ibaka an uncontested mid-range jumper, which he excels at hitting.

Further exacerbating issues for opposing defenses, the Thunder might run their superstar off screens on one side of the floor and also do the same thing for Kevin Martin on the other side, which forces defenses to play honest and make decisions on where to shift their personnel. With the way Martin is shooting the ball so far this season, the decision is incredibly tough because he is making opponents pay for sagging off of him.

And should those options fail to open up, Scott Brooks still has Russell Westbrook that can break down just about any defender off the dribble, or he can go to a pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop with either Durant or Ibaka.

The Thunder also like to use Nick Collison in the screen action or as a point of pressure release from the high post because he is a good passer that finds players cutting back door. And just for good measure, the Thunder deploy a small lineup of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Martin, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant and a  center of choice (Ibaka, Collison or Perkins) to spread out defenses and also get out in transition where they score 14.6 fast break points per game (13th in the association).

The Thunder have a good offense, but not a perfect one.

Westbrook is prone to heat checks, where he fires away wild shots and Kevin Martin occasionally takes contested jumpers early in the shot clock seemingly to test defenses and also to get himself going. Consequently, the Thunder can become too perimeter oriented and forget to attack the paint where they are deadly as far as finishing in there.

On defense, the Thunder surrender a mere 41.5 percent field goal shooting because they do a good job of keeping teams out on the perimeter by clogging the paint. Kendrick Perkins is a physical interior player that discourages post up opportunities, while Serge Ibaka is a gifted shot blocker that routinely changes shots and thus makes it quite difficult for teams to convert near the basket. The end result is a team that yields 35.6 points in the paint on average (fourth in the NBA).

As good as Perkins and Ibaka are, the defensive glory shouldn’t be reserved for them. The Thunder put an emphasis on rotating to the paint all the while recovering in time to challenge shooters. Consequently, they avoid fouling and play solid half-court defense.

In addition, their young legs make it as such that they have the speed and quickness to get back in transition and prevent teams from getting easy scores.

The Pistons will obviously have their hands full but should be able to use a couple of combinations to take advantage of a Thunder defense that likes to pack the paint. Indeed, using a stretch four in the mold of Jonas Jerebko or even going small with Tayshaun Prince at power forward could prove to be beneficial especially if Ibaka is defending them given that he likes to retreat to the paint to challenge shots. Monroe is quite adept at finding open players, thus if he gets matched up against Perkins and Ibaka comes to help as the Pistons center attacks him on the interior, it should create open looks from long-range where Detroit can capitalize and force OKC to adjust their strategy.

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Tags: Kevin Durant Russell Westbrook Serge Ibaka

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