As soon as I pointed out the inefficient play of James Harden against Oklahoma City, the Rockets’ star had one of his most efficient and best performances of the year against his old team. Naturally.
Harden’s play helped Houston hand the Thunder their third consecutive loss, marking the first time all year that Oklahoma City has dropped more than two in a row. Following that loss the Thunder executed a couple of trades, sending Eric Maynor to Portland and bringing in Ronnie Brewer from New York. With those changes to the bench, Oklahoma City will look to get back to their winning ways, starting tonight when the Timberwolves come into town.
Where is the Defense?
Snapping the three game skid will have to start on the defensive end for Oklahoma City. Typically a solid defensive team, the Thunder have allowed 109, 110 and 122 points in the last three games. While they still have the fourth-best defense in terms of effective field goal percentage (eFG%) allowed at .476, they allowed Utah, Miami and Houston to post eFG% of .523, .528 and .560 respectively. Those marks were well above the season averages for the Jazz and Rockets.
Rebounding played a role as well in the first two losses, but Oklahoma City held their own against Houston on the boards and still lost due to shoddy D. So ultimately, the disappearance of the Thunder shot defense has been the most consistent flaw during the three losses.
Newfound Defensive Depth?
While the Thunder probably will not miss Maynor and his 241 minutes all that much, they could actually benefit defensively from the addition of Brewer. Brewer will likely spell Thabo Sefolosha, and though Brewer’s eFG percentage of .429 is much lower than Sefolosha’s excellent mark of .598, Brewer is very solid on defense. He has 0.7 defensive win shares in just 711 minutes and is averaging 1.7 steal per 36 minutes. That could make him a valuable bench player down the stretch.
The Thunder might not get much offensively from Brewer, but he can add valuable defensive depth, something that Oklahoma City could have used over the past three games.
Despite the recent struggles, the Thunder should have few problems righting the ship against the lowly Timberwolves, a team that has lost seven of its last 10. With the Clippers right on their heels for the two seed in the West and a tough schedule ahead, the Thunder need to get some momentum going against a weak team.