Thunder Getting Exposed In The Middle

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Derek Fisher cannot fix all of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s problems right now.

The veteran point guard will certainly help shore up whatever deficiencies they have in their backcourt rotation. But Fisher doesn’t have what it takes to help the Thunder solve their problems in the middle.

There’s no need to panic or anything, but the Thunder have been beaten up a bit inside — at least in their last five losses — and that includes the thumping they took last night in Utah.

As talented, skilled and tough as Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and the rest of the Thunder frontcourt crew is, they have been vulnerable against opposing frontcourt players this season.

Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap ransacked them last night for 36 points and 11 rebounds.

— In their loss to the Spurs, Tim Duncan finished with 16 points and a season-high 19 rebounds while DeJuan Blair smoked them for 22 points and 11 rebounds.

— In a loss to the Rockets rookie Chandler Parsons and Luis Scola worked them for 39 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

— Cleveland’s Antawn Jamison, Alonzo Gee and Ryan Hollins lit them up for 44 points and 22 rebounds.

— And the Hawks’ Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia shredded them for 40 points, 26 rebounds and Smith’s highlight mash over Ibaka at the rim.

Ibaka is as good a shot blocker as there is in the league right now. And no one has ever questioned the toughness of Perkins or Collison. But outside of the scoring Kevin Durant provides from his hybrid small forward/shooting guard spot on a nightly basis, the Thunder do not possess ability to truly challenge opposing frontcourt players on the offensive end.

That’s means the nights that they match the other team’s production on both ends of the floor are far and few between. And that means a feeding frenzy when they face a team with two accomplished low-post scorers like Jefferson and Millsap. The Jazz recognized it and didn’t hide their intentions, according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune:

The Thunder have slowly but surely become very vulnerable to physical teams with the size and the depth to score and defend in the paint. As fate would have it, the Utah Jazz are one of those teams. For the entire game Tuesday night, the Jazz picked at that flaw like a scab, taking turns pounding the ball inside to Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, drawing fouls on Kendrick Perkins, and closing up the middle on Durant.

It was an all-around performance that bothered the Thunder. Perkins was seen talking to himself angrily during the loss. James Harden left the locker room in 10 minutes, headphones on, without so much as a word to the media.

“I thought the Jazz did a great job of playing physical basketball,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We knew going into this game that they were a physical team and that we had to match that. I thought they did a good job of winning that part of the game.”

The blueprint for playing with Oklahoma City is out: Score a bunch of paint points, don’t let the Thunder score a bunch of points on offensive rebounds, and try to force either Durant or Russell Westbrook to have a tough shooting night.

This isn’t news to the Thunder, of course. There is a reason they traded Jeff Green to Boston to get their hands on Perkins last year. They knew they needed some toughness down low. They know it takes more than just having two prodigious scorers go off every night to win a championship, they learned as much last season in the Western Conference finals when the Mavericks worked them over inside and out.

Again, we’re not suggesting anyone in Oklahoma City hit the panic button or anything. You’re 34-12 and atop the Western Conference standings for a reason.

But recognizing the problem is half the battle. Finding the tools to fix it is the other …


  1. SYDALE says:

    I think Serge could average more points per game if he got more touches… and a few more minutes… He’s developed a decent short/ midrange jumper…

    Otherwise… They should’ve pushed Orlando to give them Dwight for Perkins, Collison and 2 first rounders…

    Orlando probably wouldn’t go for that though…

  2. okc says:

    woo. okc only lost 12 and everyone try to say this and that. its a long season you can’t win it all.

  3. Kobe@Manila says:

    OKC is a championship contender… They make it to the finals but not this season.. It will be Lakers vs Chicago in the finals..

  4. TTOTambz says:

    Can I put money on that bet against you BYE? I’ll bank on them moving forward right to the Western Conference Final. My only concern is Memphis stopping them.

    What everyone is forgetting is the last time the Lakers won the championship Boston almost had it wrapped up until Perkins got hurt & went down.

    Although the above points are true perhaps we need to also realize this is a season where games come fast & furious; once the playoffs arrive teams are guaranteed a night off (minimum) between every game allowing for the bigs to recover. Don’t think that matters; take a look at how Durant & Perkins responded to the Utah loss against the Clippers & how Kendrick let Blake know he wasn’t about to be made into another poster. When push comes to shove if I were you I’d be putting my money on the Clippers not making it out of the first round and banking on OKC making it all the way to the finals.

  5. rld12 says:

    I love this team coming out of the western conference, even with their defensive issues. The problem is who they get in the east. I dont think they can beat Chicago in the finals, though they would match up much better with Miami.

  6. John says:

    Ibaka has the ability to hit the mid range shot and should contribute more offensively, perk is there for his agression around the basket and allows ibaka to rotate and block shots all night… i really think OKC should make a play for Greg Oden once he clears waivers or at the end of the year as i believe with him sitting behind perk, collision and even ibaka it allows him time to get himself healthy. just think if he got past these injuries and presti signed him up cheap he could be an absolute steal and he could be interested in OKC as it should stop all the durant comparisons!

    • okcallday says:

      personally that would be terrible because i think greg oden was one of the biggest draft busts of all time

  7. Levi says:

    I still believe in Perks. He’s still one of the best defensive (if not the best) centers in the game. I remember he’s the only one who can somehow contain Howard when he was still in the East.He and Serge Ibaka is one of the most defensive front courts in the league.

  8. Nada says:

    Cole Aldrich and Hayward should get more minutes

  9. Al says:

    Yeah, the thunder are pretty weak against low-post scorers. I mean Blake Griffin just TORE them up last night with his career low 7 points…..

  10. Kryz says:

    For some point they need a tough and Stretchable Bigman,Like Dwight they surely need his help to win a lot of Rings.

  11. Rich says:

    Just think to they had Tyson Chandler until they rescinded the trade. Imagine him and Ibaka in the front court chandler is a way better player than Perk. Hes quick,long, finishes well around the hoop, great defense, great rebounder and a vocal leader. OKC may have won last year if they would have got him.

  12. OKC_maybe_NEXT_year_CHAMPS says:

    The problem in OKC is not just Perkins alone, be honest !!!…………..Ibaka should make some points too…..serious points and impact not just defensive effort of few blocks …………i mean both of them are almost useless offensively!!!!!!!

    Harden is not very consistent in 7 game playoff run…………..and so much pressure would be on Durant and Rusell …….and with just 2 players you cant win a championship in NBA !!!……OKC dont have a bench too…..its 2 players to the max !

    Last year in the playoffs they almost lost to Denver……………i would like to see a rematch in the first round this year……and i am pretty sure it will be even tougher for OKC……also Houston is some bad A>S>S………….and JAZZ too……but Denver are the team they would like to avoid (and any other team of the west) in the first round or later!!!!!

    • OKCKD35 says:

      Almost lost to denver? Not even close 4-2 is not almost losing, Harden not consistent? only the NBA;s leading bench scorer! Not to mention their Big 3 scored like 2 ppg less than the big 3 of Miami, there seems to be an awful lot of hating going on with this topic.

      • OKC_maybe_NEXT_year_CHAMPS says:

        you dont know what you are talking about RIGHT !!!!!!!

        it was 4 : 1 not 4: 2 like you said

        Oklahoma City vs. Denver
        Game 1 – Oklahoma City 107, Denver 103
        Game 2 – Oklahoma City 106, Denver 89
        Game 3 – Oklahoma City 97, Denver 94
        Game 4 – Denver 104, Oklahoma City 101
        Game 5 – Oklahoma City 100, Denver 97
        Thunder win series 4-1

        as you can see OKC were far from convincing in their wins……….only game 2 they dominated………all other games were decided by 3 points…………AND IT WAS VEEEERY CLOSE……denver also deserved to WIN!!!!!

        against memphis in the second round it was even closer with 4:3………………….I KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING !!!!

        this year against denver kd+westbrook put 90 points together and almost lost in overtime against Denver………HELLO !

        do your homework next time !!!!

    • Mike says:

      MAYBE_NEXT_YEAR, you are absolutely right. Perkins and Ibaka need to develop their offence. They can’t just focus on the D, they have to give opposing team’s bigs more problems, make them work harder and commit fouls.
      In the meantime, there is a solution for the Thunders if they want to be serious about winning this year. His name is: Chris Kaman. He would be the perfect fir for OKC. He rebounds, blocks and can score. He can either start of come of the bench, but he would be a HUGE add to OKC.
      They just need to clear waivers for him in NOLA. Or they could wait to get him in free agrency (if Clippers don’t take him back) and win NEXT YEAR. LOL

    • gameon says:

      and Denver had 2 of their statrters/leading scorers on the injured list. OKC is not the team that is going to take the West when it comes to the playoffs its a mindset not what seed you went into the playoffs in prime example last year the Grizzles killed the #1 seed the Spurs.

  13. Nada says:

    Charles Barkley have been saying all along that OKC need a good center who can score and defend.

  14. mattman says:

    the thunder are still the team to beat in the west..they may have some defensive tweaking to do, but that is something very fixable…if they were having offensive difficulties, I would be more brooks needs to come up with better defensive sets that are going to force outside jumpers and limit the amount of penetration to the middle.. mindofmattman.blogspot

  15. Dennis says:

    What is being exposed , is that what made Perkins effective in Boston is that he played with K G, who is doing a good job playing center himself. He doesn’t have that same presents at OKC.

  16. Bye says:

    OKC will be out in 1st round…. bank on it.

  17. kratos rage says:

    Kendrick Perkins should be the pack leader of defenders for OKC but honestly speaking he’s not that effective. They should get a big man that can really defend….RASHEED is free

    • okcallday says:

      i would take kp over a old sheed anyday weak and injury prone over perkins who has a scary presence in the paint

  18. Krespino says:

    Kendrlck Perkins will cost OCT the NBA championship. He can not make the contributions expected from the center of a really contender team. How many games they won in the season does not matter, when it comes to the significant playoffs games Perkins’ weaknesses will be evident and costly. OCT have made the wrong choice for their center position. The rest of the team probably can not get better than this, but when they are not winning anything these few years because of Perkins, they are wasting a great opportunity.

    • OKCKD35 says:

      didnt seem to cost boston their 08 championship, also take a look at the record before Perkins and after perkins, he has brouhgt a tough nasty attitude to this team they have been lacking, not everything a player does shows up on the stat sheet. How about Perk and Ibaka holding BG to 7 points last night?

  19. Bobby says:

    “talented, skilled and tough”? Not so. Perkins is slow and, as a result, does not rotate or rebound. He has no skill or talent on the offensive end. Ibaka is an amazing shot blocker, and Collison takes charges and rebounds. But, compared to the front courts of most playoff teams, these three are unable to compete and force OKC’s big three to use their superior talents to carry the Thunder every night. It’s an interesting team to watch!