Oklahoma City knows what they need to do…but will they do it? Russell Westbrook threw out his guarantee Saturday night after the Thunder’s Game Three loss. Now it’s time for he and his teammates to put walk the walk on the basketball court.
Up first, put the pressure on Ricky Rubio. “In pick-and-roll coverage it takes two people. It takes the guard and the big working together,” Tunder head coach Bill Donovan said on Sunday. “Any time you’re dealing with a good player who’s a playmaker, a ball handler and a creator, the more space and room he has in certain situation, the better player they become.”
Rubio has punished OKC in the last two games, averaging 24 points and 9 rebounds in the wins. Compare that to his 13 points and 7 rebounds in Game One and you can see why he becomes a priority for the Thunder defensively.
Secondly, look for OKC to try to control the game by working the offense a bit longer.
“We gotta control the ball more,” Carmelo Anthony told reporters. “We’re letting them free flow a little bit offensively. When they have the ball, they get into the teeth of the defense and it breaks everything down from there. So I think once we get control of the ball and then from there we’re back to our principles on the defensive end.”
Working the ball actually helps Oklahoma City get back on defense and could actually slow Utah down in transition. Quick shots on OKC’s end of the floor have led to Utah racing back down the floor by rebounding and hitting a quick outlet pass. Saturday night was the first time in this series the Jazz had outscored the Thunder in fast break points.
The Thunder are also getting beaten on the boards. Slowing the offense down and looking for better shots seems is a good way to neutralize that a bit. The hope is that better shots would equate to less rebounding opportunities for the Jazz.
Get tougher inside. It isn’t for a lack of trying, but Oklahoma City is just getting out muscled under the basket. We’ve already documented this so there’s no need to jump into it any further, but everyone seems to get the sense that the Thunder have to play tougher.