OKLAHOMA CITY — The Thunder faced a familiar problem during Tuesday’s 122-112 loss to Houston. They gave up 3s. Lots of them.
They switched on many of the Rockets’ pick-and-rolls. And it didn’t yield much success. Carmelo Anthony mentioned after the game that Oklahoma City’s biggest issue was a failure to execute the game plan properly.
Coach Billy Donovan shed further light on that Wednesday, saying they weren't supposed to be doing that as often.
“There was times we got caught on some switches based on our switching partners, personnel-wise,” Donovan said. “And then there was several times where they’re kind of going back and forth and kind of forcing the switch. But once the switch happens, that’s where the team defense comes in. You can’t just put a guy on an island by himself and expect him to guard a guy.”
Struggles with defensive communication have been a recent theme. It will be a focus again when OKC plays Phoenix on Thursday.
The defense has been one of the NBA’s worst since shooting guard Andre Roberson went down for the season Jan. 27, allowing 109.2 points per 100 possessions since that date. It’s a figure which would rank 28th in the NBA if it belonged to a team for the full season. And it’s not like OKC is struggling against only elite offenses like the Rockets’.
The Thunder just allowed 116 points to the Suns over the weekend. Thursday provides a chance to improve on that.
• More chants: Paul George made an appearance Wednesday at Carl Albert High School in Midwest City to surprise the boys basketball team with sneakers.
While at a pep rally, the crowd of students broke out into a familiar chant: “We want Paul! We want Paul!”
That chant first arose at Staples Center earlier this year. George has spoken openly about how he requested a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers this past summer, and the Lakers were even slapped with a $500,000 fine for tampering with him while he was with Indiana. He still speaks positively about the Lakers today. And Lakers fans have let it be known when OKC has played in L.A.
Thunder fans followed at the next home game, yelling “We want Paul!” and other variations of the chant, like “We love Paul!” Lakers fans, again, chanted it when George was doing his media availability at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
“It never gets old,” George said about hearing the chant again at Carl Albert. “I think it’s always great to be wanted.”
• The logo: On the way to scoring 23 points Tuesday, Carmelo Anthony passed a legend. The Thunder forward is now 20th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, leaping Hall of Famer Jerry West.
“To be 20th in history of this game is something that I’d never, ever thought of, ever dreamt of,” Anthony said. “To be in this situation like now and still have years to go in this league is definitely a blessing.”
Anthony could blow by many more in the coming years, too. He’s only 69 points behind Hall of Famer Reggie Miller for 19th on the all-time list. He needs only 2,103 more career points to get into the top 10. For reference, the 33-year-old has averaged 1,681 points a season during his career.