OKC-WAS Preview: Slowing Down the Wizards

The Thunder’s focus heading into each game is what it can do on the defensive end, and for Sunday’s contest against the Washington Wizards, a look into the numbers shows the areas where Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team must be alert.

It starts with one of the Thunder’s core defensive beliefs- getting back on defense. Currently the Wizards rank second in the NBA with 20.2 fast break points per game, a product of the speed of John Wall and Bradley Beal, who love to get out into transition. It won’t just be guards like Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb who have to get back, but the entire five-man unit has to build a deterrent to pushing tempo by getting back into position quickly.

“They’re a fast team,” Brooks said. “They score a lot of points. Wall is one of the better point guards in this league. He seems to be back healthy. Their backcourt is good and young and they have a very, very bright future.

“(Wall) is quick, he gets out in transition and gets to the rim,” Lamb said. “We just have to let him see bodies in transition. We can’t backpedal back. We have to sprint back. If you backpedal, he’s too fast in the open court and he’ll go right by you.”

If the Thunder can get the Wizards slowed down between offensive and defensive possessions, its next task will be to run Washington’s perimeter players off the three point line. The Wizards may score 19.2 percent of its points in the fast break, third most in the league, but it scores a whopping 33.7 percent of its points from the three-point line, ranking first in the NBA.

Per game, the Wizards are making 11.8 of its 27.6 attempted threes, and currently, opponents are shooting 26.6 three-pointers against the Thunder, so Brooks’ squad will likely be keyed in on preventing those three-point tries, in favor of forcing less efficient, long two-point jumpers.

While Wall and Beal are two of the Wizards most dangerous players on the offensive end, based on the numbers it will be crucial for the Thunder to take every Washington player seriously and defend as a five-man unit. The combination of team defense with taking pride in defending the individual matchup has been a staple of the Thunder’s mantra.

“We’ve always had a philosophy of it is us against them, not the individual matchups,” Brooks said. “But you always have to be concerned with who you’re guarding. That’s always the game within the game.”

If Brooks’ squad can show a line of defenders in transition and then be tied on a string with one another in the half court, it believes it can show Chesapeake Energy Arena another home victory Sunday night.

In the Notes:

- The Thunder went 1-1 against the Wizards in 2012-13, and overall is 6-3 against Washington.

- Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have scored 20-or-more in all three games since Westbrook’s return to the lineup. The Thunder is 3-0 in those games.

- The Thunder scored a season-high for a half with 64 points in the second half of its most recent game, a win at Detroit.

Broadcast Info:

6:00 p.m. CT. TV - Fox Sports Oklahoma. Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network