While the Oklahoma City Thunder are near the top of the NBA in
almost every offensive category, their defensive efforts are paying
The Thunder aim for a seventh consecutive home victory Friday
night as they face the woeful Orlando Magic.
With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the way,
Oklahoma City (48-17) is second in the league in scoring with 106.5
points per game. The Thunder, though, also have proven to be a
force on the defensive end, posting a 42.8 opponent field-goal
percentage to rank second in the NBA.
Winners of nine of 11, the Thunder have surrendered an average
of 91.8 points over their last five games – 5.2 less than their
They’ve been particularly stingy at home recently, as the last
five opponents to visit Oklahoma City have averaged 83.4 points on
35.3 percent shooting. All of the Thunder’s last 14 home games have
been double-digit victories except for a Feb. 14 loss to
Their defensive prowess was on full display Wednesday in a
110-87 home victory over Utah. The Thunder, who shot 53.6 percent
and limited the Jazz to 35.0, scored 25 points off 20 turnovers and
held a 48-35 rebounding edge.
“We did a good job of making plays and executing,” said coach
Scott Brooks, whose team has outscored opponents by an average of
23.8 points during its six-game home winning streak. “Our defense
really won the game.”
Oklahoma City improved to 36-1 when limiting opponents to 98
points or fewer and 35-0 when holding them below 43.5 percent from
Brooks credited Kendrick Perkins with the Thunder’s solid play
on the defensive end. Though the veteran big man went scoreless
with three rebounds Wednesday, Oklahoma City had a plus-25 scoring
margin when he was on the floor – tops on the team. Perkins helped
hold Utah leading scorer Al Jefferson to eight points on 4-of-13
“I think if you had to give a game ball you would certainly give
one to (Perkins),” Brooks said. “He was a big impact throughout the
game not only on his man but anchoring our defense. … He’s been
doing it all year. He takes pride in his individual defense and our
The Thunder appear primed for another good night defensively,
facing a Magic team which is among the league’s worst at 94.2
points per game. They’ve scored more than 100 just five times in
their last 22.
Oklahoma City is facing Orlando (18-47) for the first time since
sweeping last season’s two games as Durant averaged 34.0 points.
While the Magic stayed close in both contests thanks to significant
contributions from Dwight Howard, they could have a hard time
keeping up Friday.
Orlando is coming off an emotional 106-97 loss to the Los
Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, dropping to an NBA-worst 6-34 since Dec.
21. Jameer Nelson scored 21 points and Tobias Harris added 17 and a
career-high 15 rebounds, but the Magic had no answer for Howard,
who posted a season-high 39 points and 16 boards in his return to
“We competed and gave everything that we had, but unfortunately
we came up short,” Nelson told the team’s official website. “This
was something we needed, especially our young guys going through
Harris has averaged 15.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in 10 games
since coming over from Milwaukee prior to the trade deadline.
The Thunder and Magic meet again next Friday in Orlando.