This was New Year’s Eve at Oklahoma City and Also Russell Westbrook Had Been hunting.

Westbrook got his timing slightly wrong, and since Jordan raised his arms to pass, Westbrook lurched to the ball and then struck Jordan throughout the arm. Foul called on Westbrook.

Thunder assistant trainer, also known Westbrook whisperer, Mo Cheeks eased his way from the seat and said something to Westbrook along the lines of”that is what you buy for gambling.”

A couple plays later, Jordan was back at the top of the primary with the ball, looking to fold it on the helpless side . Westbrook, stalking his victim again, crouched down and hunted to the ballthis time ripping it from Jordan’s hands and starting a quick break to get a lay up four moments later. The Mavs called time out and Westbrook ran back into the Thunder seat laughing since Cheeks only shook his head with a grin.

The Thunder have built one of the better defenses in the league, however it moves beyond just becoming hard to score up on. Their shield is sometimes their best crime the basketball model of a scoop and score, so picking pockets and picking off moves that turn into instant layups and dunks. It is flanked by Westbrook and Paul George, that have spent the majority of the summer season switching between No. 1 and two at the league in steals (James Harden currently moved slightly beyond Westbrook for No. 2), and rank high in deflections and loose balls regained.

The Thunder have had an -best 656 chances after having a sneak in 2013, per-second Spectrum. They average 1.20 points a chance after having a sneak, third-best in the (behind the Kings at 1.26 and Raptors at 1.23). After a sneak by Westbrook, though, it has 1.26 points a chance and after having a George steal it has 1.27 points each chance. The league average is 1.14 points each chance. Typically, when the Thunder score after having a slip, it takes 9.6 seconds.

It has ever been the identity of the Thunder to engage in fast and angry, however there’s been an even bigger accent in 2013. It’s certainly one of the reasons Carmelo Anthony was not just a fit. He slowed them down. Grinding, half-court possessions do not fit well with Westbrook-led teams. They need to play in chaos and arbitrary free-flowing transition. The longer along it goes, the higher your Thunder perform.

George is one of the greatest defenders in the league, also Westbrook has ever been a ball hawk, jumping passing lanes and paring off his man to search for steals. However, that sort of gaming is something he’s tried to do less of in recent decades.

“In years pastI would say I would bet a whole lot longer and I would get steals occasionally, but today I’m just more in the perfect spot, together with my fingers, just being at the place I want to be defensively,” Westbrook says. “Me that has let me get my hands onto basketballs, catch deflections, get out in the lanes. Just tried to do a better job at the coming directly into the past year and defend at a higher level every night. Simply taking pride in that.”

“Solid” may be the word Westbrook and the Thunder want to use, trusting the turnovers should soon probably come.

“Lots times people are very, very careless with the ballas I am aware… f–,” Westbrook says with a laugh,”which means you can sort of look for a means to get steals.”

Westbrook still gambles, though. He can’t help himself. It’s his worst defensive attribute, but maybe one of his unique game-changing abilities. They can reverse a game’s momentum with a quick read, turning a picked-off pass into a soaring, roaring dunk. Thunder coach Billy Donovan prefers”solid,” but might not refuse players such as Westbrook and George using their instincts to produce plays.



enjoys the ball afterward stones the rim with a ferocious one-handed hit.

“You start out with a game program and a scouting report you have to be solid and everybody must be on exactly the same page with, right. However, since things begin to unfold and so they start to see what players are attempting to complete contrary to specific viewing actionsthey can begin to see what’s happening and they then can to begin to anticipate and get their span and athleticism and speed into the match. Nonetheless, it is really a tribute to their intelligence and smart they are players.”

The Thunder lead the team, with a huge margin in steals per game and steals per 100 possessions. They are No. 1 at deflections and second in loose balls regained. In line with s Reference, there have been 150 instances in 2013 of a team committing 20 or more turnovers in a match. Of these 150, OKC is responsible for 16, six more than any other team. Even the Thunder might not be the top defensive team in the , however they will be the most disruptive.

“I think we’re a couple of the best, a couple of the best at our position, a couple of the best wing defenders in the league in general,” George says. “We do not care that the matchup is, we will take the task. Russ is just really a much better athlete than I ever am, and on a nightly basis he shows how good he may be “

And it is a reason why the Thunder think they would have a chance at a string against the Golden State Warriors.

Any conversation concerning the Western Conference playoffs and that is a competitor has a fuzzy footnote.

However, if there’s a flaw into this most powerful soccer team on the planet, it’s their propensity to find a bit loose.

The Warriors are 22nd in points allowed off turnovers, while the Thunder lead the team in points created off turnovers. In the rivals’ two games this season, the Thunder have forced 17 and 21 turnovers — one of only two matches that the Warriors have flipped it over 20 or more times.

There’s not any established formula to beating the Warriors, however the Thunder have a few persuasive attributes. Length, athleticism, size and speed are requirements, and combined with top-tier ability and celebrity power, there is an appropriate respect/fear for that which OKC presents. In the Thunder’s rugged 2016 17 season, they moved 2-2 against the Warriors, also at the two wins they forced Golden State to 25 turnovers into one match and 2-2 in yet another. Maybe the only real way to actually stop the Warriors from scoring would be never to let them shoot it whatsoever. George in particular has stood out in his games against the Warriors, accumulating 18 steals in six games against them with OKC.

The Thunder have climbed and dropped on the defensive ending all through the season, however their potential resides directly on that side of this floor. George is maybe the greatest over all perimeter defensive player in the league, destroying coicting sets together with his ability to slither over displays and intelligently read plays. Westbrook has become more consistent than in recent seasons, but still owns his knack for thievery.

After the accident into Andre Roberson last January, the Thunder watched a top-five defense fall off a cliff. Without Roberson’s elite margin stopper capabilities, OKC fought protecting the 3-point lineup and couldn’t get a handle on the ball at the point of attack. Donovan and his re-worked coaching staff spent summer time tweaking the scheme, deploying a more competitive style which keeps the large man up at the pick-and-roll and attempts to contain the ball. So a lot of everything the Thunder do would be all about expecting their span and athleticism to competition shots and close out on drives.

Westbrook and George are located at the top of the team in steals and deflections as a result of their competitive, instinctual defensive natures, however Steven Adams could be the rectal tissues. Adams is no slouch with the disruptive stuff, either. He has a exceptional tactic protecting the pick-and-roll where he goes into not exactly the whole squat in anticipation for a pocket pass, setting his hands basically on the courtroom. Adams has ever been needed kicked balls a few times this season, however after making officiating crews alert to everything he’s doing, it has happened less.

“How it came into being is I was simply watching guard drills, them coming off pick-and-rolls” Adams says,”and them all, they simply no-look a pocket pass. They’re just wired to complete it, almost using their eyes shut. I was like,’OK, I will just put my hand there then.'”

Adams’ ability to play up enables George and Westbrook (and many others such as Jerami Grant) to jump death lanes if an opposing guard feels strain onto the ball.

“There must be strain on the ballthere has to be elevated practical the ball,” Donovan says,”because that is where beats are happening. The majority of the days the beats do not come on the ball. As you aren’t visiting guys pickpockets. Ordinarily what’s happening there’s a whole lot of strain on the ball and it has thrown into the pocket or gets diverted or perhaps it’s got lots of hang time plus guys can see it and use their speed and then generate a slip. The entire thing is by the sort of pressure you’ll be able to get on the ball.”

And that is what the Thunder do once they are gearing around their defensive potential. They apply pressure.

This was the very first play of this match against the Brooklyn Nets and Westbrook was searching. The Nets ran a top pick-and-roll and Westbrook, whether from advanced scouting or perhaps onthefly observation, knew what was coming. He also tried a sneak-attack slip from behind, but the Nets reset the ownership. Westbrook remained ready anyway. Seconds after, he swiped a bounce pass near the free throw line and was off.

The Nets are a slick passing team which performs control and hunts out space to drive and kick, however because the Thunder settled , they forced seven turnovers in the next quarter to overcome a double-digit deficit. If the Thunder have an on/off change, then the breaker is situated within their own shield. Oahu is the way in which that they change games, turning momentum using a flurry of swipes which could put them at transition, and that’s where Westbrook is at his most dangerous.



steals away the ball from the Clippers to set up ’s flying hammer.

From the next half, Westbrook nabbed a second and was out on the break. He spanned half court, eyes widening and jaw hinged open. When he’s really feeling himself and the pace the Thunder are playing , he’ll split a high-stepping dribble because he zooms downhill at the rim. Westbrook plowed through three Nets defenders and got into the rim, then turning a steal to a shot in about three seconds. Westbrook missed the lay up and cracked an extensive, frustrated grin. He jogged back into the defensive end while the Nets moved the ball once or twice. He’d an easy lob to get Jarrett Allen to dunk and chucked this up. Unexpectedly, Westbrook, inside his spring-loaded crouch, burst into the framework for a second slip, smacking the ball from the backboard. George grabbed the loose ballturned up-court and five seconds later hit a pull-up 3.

Though if there’s a disadvantage to OKC’s competitive model, they filthy. Plenty. Both Westbrook and George recently fouled out of a game against the Clippers, also as a team that they commit 22.9 fouls per match, 27th in the league. They position 24th in opposing free throw effort rate. They out played the Pacers on Thursday, but let an 18-point lead slide almost entirely as a result of cluttered fouls in the next quarter. It’s an issue Donovan brings up frequently, and while George has filed his complaints recently gaining a $25,000 fine for this it’s the identity of these defense. And at the postseason, as physicality increases and the whistle loosens, they hope it’s not going to be an problem.

“I actually don’t believe it was a bet. It’s known as defense.”

As it’s that they are and also need to be. They’ve improved, but they aren’t a terrific shooting team. They don’t really implement brilliantly in the half court. They’re inconsistent at the free throw line. Westbrook is intermittent in their own efficacy. But when the mayhem begins, together with deflections and steals and cubes, long-armed limbs flying anywhere, they could create the cataclysmic air they flourish in.

In early January, on the road against the trailblazers, somewhere that they hadn’t won in five decades, the Thunder were building momentum in the fourth quarter. Lillard captured it, pivoted into the left to employ a screen from Jusuf Nurkic. He left McCollum — an evident risk — bolting toward Lillard. Westbrook picked the ball was alone at the court. Three moments later, an uncontested lay up and also an eight-point cause whilst the Thunder proceeded to win.

“I actually don’t believe this was a bet,” Westbrook said after the match, a wry smile slid across his face. “It is called defense.”


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