Back home: Bring on the Thunder

Essentials

  • Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder (5-2) at Detroit Pistons (0-7)
  • Date: November 12, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

After a disastrous six-game western road trip, the Detroit Pistons are finally back home with a chance to play their second home game of the season when they host the OKC Thunder tonight. The Pistons fell at the hands of the Thunder by double figures last week and will be looking not only for their first victory of the season, but also a little bit of payback.

In their previous encounter, the Thunder put up 105 points on 53.5 percent field goal shooting because the Pistons failed to come up with a good recipe to limit Oklahoma City. Indeed, Scott Brooks’ group got whatever it is that they wanted for the most part by stretching out Detroit’s defense with ball movement and perimeter shooters in the mold of Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin. Every time players for the Thunder put the ball on the floor, they were afforded the possibility of getting inside the paint where they had a chance to score or get fouled, or kick the ball back out to an open man for a mid-range jumper or 3-point shot.

These avenues were made possible thanks in large part to Serge Ibaka who made a multitude of open shots in the pick-and-pop action with Russell Westbrook. This forced Lawrence Frank to stretch out his defense, thus resulting in some wide open driving lanes.

In addition, OKC benefitted from the fact that Detroit’s second unit occasionally oversold their pick-and-roll defensive coverage by rotating before the Thunder even ran the action, which meant that the screener could adjust his screening angle or simply slip out and go away from the play where he was left wide open. Add all of these factors up and Russell Westbrook and company scored 40 points in the paint, manufactured 26 free throw attempts and converted 8-of-20 shots from 3-point range.

Given that the Pistons’ defensive woes started thanks in large part to Ibaka’s shooting, it will be interesting to see if Frank tilts his defense towards the power forward at the expense of another Thunder shooter, or whether the strategy remains the same and they dare the big man to beat them again with mid-range and long 2-point shots.

On defense, the Thunder have a good tandem of big men in Serge Ibaka and Kendick Perkins. Ibaka is the perennial shot changer, as he challenges players at the rim and makes them adjust their attempts or pass the ball out to a shooter for fear of getting their shot swatted into the first row. Perkins on the other hand lacks lateral quickness, which makes him a target to attack in the pick-and-roll, but his strength and toughness make it as such that opposing centers have a tough time scoring on him, especially on the low block in post up situations.

With that said, in their previous encounter, Detroit was able to ring up 50 points in the paint against them because of two reasons: the first one was a result of Ibaka going after every shot defensively, which often resulted in giving up offensive rebounding position; where the Pistons got 19 second chance points. The second reason was OKC’s small lineups, where Andre Drummond flourished because of his size, where he could just catch and finish above most of the Thunder defenders.

Drummond wasn’t alone in this respect, Greg Monroe looked especially aggressive whenever he was defended by Nick Collison, and often looked for the ball on the low block but was thwarted at times as the Kansas product fronted him to prevent him from getting the ball. Unfortunately for Lawrence Frank, his players have a relatively low collective IQ and thus never they adjusted on the fly to take advantage of Collison’s defense by flashing a player to the high post to feed Monroe with a lob pass for an easy finish.

Perhaps Detroit will make the adjustment this time around since they now know to expect the defensive tactic, but it remains to be seen.

Also, it’s worth noting that the Pistons’ starting backcourt struggled in their last encounter with the Thunder, which isn’t necessarily surprising when you realize that OKC’s starting guards are tall and strong. On the flip side, Stuckey and Knight looked a little better against a second unit — big surprise I know — composed of Reggie Jackson and Eric Maynor.

The Pistons’ personnel won’t change, but perhaps their strategy against the Thunder will.

Read about the Thunder

Daily Thunder.

Tags: Kevin Durant Kevin Martin Russell Westbrook Serge Ibaka