How does the saying go? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well if that is the case, Oklahoma City is doing their best San Antonio impersonation so far this year. The Thunder used defense to shut down the T-Wolves in the fourth quarter, and they will need an even better effort to contain the potent Boston lineup.
Modeling the club after the Spurs makes sense given the GM and Coach both came from arguably the best team the last decade. San Antonio won their championships with one star and role players who excelled on the defensive end of the floor. Hmmm, is it is a stretch to make the same comparison with OKC? Yes, the Thunder have a long way to go, but they made the right moves in the off-season.
Kevin Durant no longer has to do it all, as Minnesota found out. The team's star is still learning to play all-star caliber defense to go with his all-world scoring. That transition has been made easier by two vets and one rookie. Joe Smith and Desmond Mason have stabilized the second unit along with Russell Westbrook. All three play excellent defense and have allowed the pressure to come off of Durant and Jeff Green.
The Celtics will provide the strongest test, as carbert pointed out yesterday. The Rockets struggled to score points when it counted, and only one of their big three had a good offensive game in the loss to Boston. For the Thunder to be competitive, tonight will have to be a low-scoring affair. Both teams are giving up less than 91 points a contest while OKC has not looked comfortable on the scoring front.
Westbrook, Earl Watson, and the front court rotation are front and center tonight because Durant will be getting all of the attention. A strong supporting cast is the only way to upset the defending champs, and it starts with locking up the big three of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen. OKC has been impressive in the post, and the Thunder have to take advantage of every opportunity to send the fans home happy for the second time in a row.
The T-Wolves were put on notice that the NBA's newest franchise isn't a walk in the park. Oklahoma City is tied for second in the division, and a strong showing against the beasts of the East further lands the Thunder right where they want to be -- San Antonio who? How bout OKC!