Oklahoma City Thunder – Defense Makes Up for Durant & Westbrook Weakness

How badly do the Oklahoma City Thunder need big games from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook? Not that much, as it turns out. Sometimes defense is enough while their two stars are having an off shooting night, putting a bit more of the spotlight on guys like Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha.

In theory, this is the season the Thunder go all the way. Since 2008, they’ve improved in their win percentage and season-end result each year since making the move from Seattle to Oklahoma City, and last year ended in the NBA finals. Still, life in the NBA is probably a bit more complicated than that, as the Thunder find themselves behind the San Antonio Spurs, once again, in the race for the top spot in the West.

Kevin Durant scored 23 points on 6-16 from the field (adding 11 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook had 15 points on 5-11 from the field, as he felt the defensive prowess of Avery Bradley a little too well. On the other side of that coin, which led to a 91-79 win over the Boston Celtics, the Thunder made it work in the right time, keeping the Celtics without a field goal for over 5 minutes in the fourth quarter, going on a 12-2 run early in the fourth to finish the game.

I told the guys coming into this game that it’s going to be one of those low-scoring games, one of those nights that we have to grind out, so that’s what we did. Every night, we can’t go out and expect to put up 100 points and the score to be 120-100. Some nights, it’s going to be like this.

The Thunder limited Boston to 25% from the field in the second half after the Celtics shot 51% in the first. Boston dropped off to 33%in the third quarter and all the way down to 18% in the fourth.

While it wasn’t the best of shooting nights for Kevin Durant, he did make all of his 11 free throw attempts, making it the sixth time this season he has made 10 free throws or more in a game without a miss, more than anyone else in the NBA, including James Harden, trailing Durant with four such games.

How bad was Russell Westbrook? Well, you’ll have to ask Avery Bradley, quickly emerging as one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. He held Westbrook to 8 points below his season average and kept him at a season low two assists. Bradley was on Westbrook on all but one offensive possessions in the game, which was a very different experience than the first game between the two teams, with Wesbtrook scoring 26 points.

It’s important, no matter how guys try to look at it. You always want home court as many playoff series as you can. We are going in there to try to get the win, and it’s very important.

The Thunder play in San Antonio to finish a four games-in-five days series, hoping that the absence of Tony Parker and the recent Blazers win @ the AT&T center will pave the way for a win of their own.