Tag Archives: Ty Lawson

Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets preview (Game 13 of 82)

ibaka adams faried thunder nuggets

  • When: Wednesday, 19 November 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

The last time the panic alarm was this loud in Thunder Nation was after the 2nd game of the season. The Thunder had just lost 2 close games on the road, and to top it off, they lost their All-Star point guard to a broken hand. The roster was down to 8 healthy players, none of which had ever been tasked with leading a team to battle. The Thunder needed a respite and they needed it fast. Enter the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder got off to a big lead and still had the fortitude to win a close game when Denver got hot in the 4th quarter. From there, the panic dampened as the Thunder started getting some players back from injury and actually won a couple more games. But with the Thunder staring at a 3-9 record, the offense struggling, and their superstar duo probably not coming back for at least another 2 weeks, the panic alarm is once again wailing.

The Opponent

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets come into the game with a 3-7 record. They won their first game, and then proceeded to lose their next 6, before finally winning the last 2 of 3, including a road victory in Cleveland in their last game. The Nuggets are middle of the pack when it comes to scoring (101.5 ppg), but give up the 4th most points in the league (107.1 ppg). Their rebounding is one of their strengths and it fuels their transition game. Ty Lawson is one of the better pace pushers in the league, using his speed to beat defenders up the court and causing havoc in the paint. On the perimeter, Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler have had their troubles being consistent. Up front, the big man rotation of Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov, and JJ Hickson provides plenty of energy in going after rebounds and hustling defensively. The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league, usually going at least 12 deeep into the rotation. The bench players that receive most time are Randy Foye, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Alonzo Gee, and Nate Robinson.

Probable Starting Line-Up

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Arron Afflalo
  • SF – Wilson Chandler
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – Timofey Mozgov

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Jeremy Lamb
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Consistency – The Thunder have held leads in the last few games they have lost. Sometimes those leads even balloned up into the double digits. But the Thunder have failed to capitalize on those leads due to a stagnant offense. When the Thunder play their best is when they are passing and moving. As soon as the offense becomes iso-oriented, the Thunder struggle due to having their iso MVPs on the bench in street clothes. The Thunder can’t stop playing their current brand of basketball as soon as they see a little light at the end of the tunnel. They aren’t good enough to go off the cuff. They need to stick to their script.

2. Rebounding – I feel like I’ve written this in the last few pre-game reports as a key to the game, but the proof is in the pudding. In their last 3 games (all losses), the Thunder have been outrebounded by an average of 11 rebounds and have allowed the opponent to grab an average of 16 offensive rebounds. While I like the new found perimeter aggressiveness of Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka, I feel like them being so far from the basket takes away from their opportunities to grab offensive rebounds. On the defensive end, Steven Adams needs to play bigger and occupy more space to grab more defensive boards.

Denver Nuggets vs Oklahoma City Thunder

3. Reggie Jackson – The offense goes as he does. If he is masterfully setting up his teammates and controlling the flow of the game, the Thunder usually are usually in control and rolling. As soon as he goes off script, the Thunder tend to struggle. I don’t necessarily fault Jackson. This is his first foray as the focal point of the offense, and he is still adjusting to being shadowed by at least one other defender.

Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 70 of 82)

  • When: Monday, 24 March 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

It’s a good thing that the Oklahoma City Thunder and their fans have had at least a day to decompress from what was a crazy game on Friday and the subsequent “awaiting the MRI results on Russell’s knee” on Saturday. Thankfully, the Thunder won the game in double overtime against the Raptors and Westbrook’s knee sprain showed no further damage to the knee. Even better, Durant’s performance in that game (51 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, GW 3-pt) pretty much sowed up the MVP award for him.

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder lead the season series against their division rivals 2-1. Games between these two teams usually come down to the 4th quarter with the point guards taking over the show.

The Opponent

faried lawson nuggets

Although ACL only has three letters in it, it might as well be a 4-letter word in Denver. With Danilo Gallinari, Nate Robinson, and now, J.J. Hickson out with ACL injuries, the Denver team is a shell of what it was expected to be in the beginning of the season. The Nuggets, currently at 32-38, are out of the playoff hunt for the first time in the last 11 seasons. The team does a good job of scoring points (103.9 per game, 9th in the league), but allows too many defensively (105.8 ppg, 28th in the league). The offense is spear-headed by point guard Ty Lawson, whose break-neck style leads to many points in the paint and many open looks on the perimeter for shooters. On the wings, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Evan Fournier, and Darrell Arthur are usually the beneficiaries of Lawson’s ability to get into the paint. In the post, Kenneth Faried is one of the more active rebounders in the league while Timofey Mozgov is a big mobile body that can carve out space and score if given the opportunity. Due to injuries, the bench for Denver is a bit muted, but Denver was one of the deeper teams to begin with and still has a decent bench that features Aaron Brooks, Fournier, and Arthur.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Randy Foye
  • SF – Anthony Randolph
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – Timofey Mozgov

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding – Denver’s rebounding took a hit with the loss of J.J. Hickson. But, Faried and Mozgov are still 2 of the more better rebounding bigs in the league. Faried has 9 games of 13 or more rebounds and Mozgov has 8 games of double figure rebounding. If the Thunder are disciplined in boxing these two out, they can hurt the Thunder with offensive boards in the same way that Hickson would have.

2. Dribble Penetration – Ty Lawson causes the havoc that ignites Denver’s offense by getting into the lane. I would start Roberson on Lawson and put Reggie Jackson on Randy Foye. Jackson has trouble staying in front of quick guards, but does a pretty good job of recovering on shooters, due to his wing span.

3. Durant – Against a defense that gives up the 3rd most points in the league, what show can Durant put on against the Nuggets?

Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets preview (Game 36 of 82)

perkins faried thunder nuggets

  • When: Thursday, 09 January 2014 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

In my opinion, this game has a bit of a must win feel to it for some reason. Maybe it’s to calm our psyche. Maybe it’s the constant pressure of needing to keep up with the top half of the Western Conference. Whatever it may be, that psyche was put a little on edge after the loss to the Utah Jazz, who own the worst record in the Western Conference. Were there factors at play that may have aided the Jazz? Of course. Two of Oklahoma City’s top three players were out when Serge Ibaka sat out with flu-like symptoms. And Utah has been playing much better since the return of Trey Burke. But still, it’s the Jazz.

Regardless, the NBA season keeps moving along. Tonight, the Thunder face their other division rival located in the Mountain Standard timezone, the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder won the first two meetings of the season between these two teams. The first meeting saw the Thunder outscore the Nuggets 32-21 in the 4th quarter to win a close one, 115-113. The 2nd game was not as close as the Thunder rode an 8 point halftime lead to a 12 point victory, 105-93.

The Opponent

faried lawson nuggets

The Nuggets have been consistently inconsistent this season. This is how their last 24 games have played out: 7 game win streak followed by losses in 11 of the next 14 games followed by the current 3 game win streak. They are a team that is highly dependent on the 3-point shot without having a consistent dead-eye shooter. Point guard Ty Lawson gets the offense going with his ability to dribble penetrate off the pick and role. Randy Foye and Wilson Chandler have greatly benefited from Lawson’s dribble drives to the tune of 35% 3-point shooting for each player. Unfortunately, Chandler will be out of tonight’s game with a strained hip. Despite their lack of size, the duo of JJ Hickson and Kenneth Faried grabs about 16.5 rebounds per game combined, and can wear a front line ragged with their energy and athleticism. Injuries and internal strife have decimated the depth of the Nuggets and turn what used to be one of the Nuggets’ biggest strengths into one of their liabilities.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Randy Foye
  • SF – Jordan Hamilton
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – JJ Hickson

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Pick and roll defense – Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson are great at breaking down a defense at the point of attack from the pick and role. If a defender goes under the pick, the two guards are able to punish the defenders with their shooting (over 35% 3-point shooting for both guards). If a defender tries to go over, both guards are quick enough to get past the initial line of defense. Luckily, the Denver big men aren’t great shooters, so the Thunder big men should be able to ice the picks if they happen from the free throw line and up.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets

2. Bench scoring – Injuries to JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler, along with the “suspended/awaiting to be traded” Andre Miller, have decimated the depth the Nuggets once had. The Thunder bench struggled in the last game against the Jazz, so I expect them to come out focused and ready to attack.

3. Thin air – Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson probably played more minutes than they expected on Tuesday, and appeared a bit winded near the end of the game. It will be interesting to see what happens if this becomes a competitive affair and the game minutes go into the upper 30’s to lower 40’s.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets preview (Game 24 of 82)

westbrook thunder rocky nuggets

  • When: Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

Even though it may not be a long road trip, the stretch the Oklahoma City Thunder are on has to be a bit grueling. In the past two weeks, the Thunder have had a 3 game road trip that began in California and ended in New Orleans. Then they went back to OKC for a game and then back on the road for two. Then back home for two, and now they find themselves back on the road for a one game trip to the Rocky Mountains. If that’s tiring to me, I can’t imagine how it feels to an athlete. With all that said though, the Thunder have won 14 of their last 15, and hold the only undefeated home record in the league.

This is the 2nd meeting of the season between the Thunder and their division rival Denver Nuggets. The Thunder won the first meeting 115-113, after being down by 9 points to begin the 4th quarter. In that game, Kevin Durant (38 pts/8 rebs/6 asts) and Russell Westbrook (30 pts/12 rebs/7 asts) both nearly notched triple doubles, while JJ Hickson  and Ty Lawson led the way for the Nuggets.

The Opponent

chandler hickson shaw nuggets

The Nuggets come into the game with a 14-9 record, but haven’t really had any consistency throughout the season. The started the year 0-3, then won 11 out of their next 14 games, and are currently on a 3-3 stretch in the last 6 games. They usually play at a breakneck speed, but only average 102.1 points per game (good for 12th in the league). Injuries have played a part in their inconsistent start as Javale McGee has been out with a stress fracture in his leg and Danilo Gallinari is still recovering from the ACL tear he suffered last season. The Nuggets’ attack is spearheaded by Ty Lawson, who does his damage by penetrating into the lane, causing the defense to collapse. Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye are above average shooters who are usually the recipients of Lawson’s drives. Inside, the duo of Kenneth Faried and JJ Hickson can gobble up rebounds and cause havoc with their energy. The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league, as evidenced by having 11 players who play more than 12 minutes per game (min: 20 games played).

Probable Starting Line-ups

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Randy Foye
  • SF – Wilson Chandler
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – JJ Hickson

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Control the boards – Hickson and Faried aren’t overly big, but they are extremely active and attack the boards, especially the offensive ones, with zeal. Because of their lack of size up front, the Thunder are usually forced to play small ball most of the time, with Durant playing a lot of 4 and having to match up with Faried and Hickson.

Denver Nuggets v Oklahoma City Thunder

2. Ty Lawson/Nate Robinson – The key to stopping the Nuggets is to stop the point of attack. Both Lawson and Robinson are adept at finding small cracks in the defense and exploiting them. As difficult as it is, Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, and Derek Fisher have to stay in front of these two guards or the defense will collapse and chaos will ensue.

3. Bench play – With the altitude and Denver’s propensity to play small ball, the bench will play a huge factor in this game.

Let’s Not Get All Defensive Now

In remembering these past 2 weeks, and watching the first 6 minutes of the first quarter in the Phoenix game, I’m reminded that, even though the Oklahoma City Thunder are athletically superior to most teams, their defense will be the tell-tale sign whether they reach glorious heights this postseason. A lot of the defensive breakdowns they had last season, are back again this season. The cast of characters is the same, so the fact that improvements have not been made, is really worrisome for their future postseason success.

 Two seasons ago, when the Thunder had Ron Adams as an assistant coach, they were near the top of the league in defensive efficiency and used that to propel them to the postseason for the first team since moving to Oklahoma City. Since Adam’s departure after that postseason, there has been a lack of defensive focus that is being masked and hidden by the team’s improved offensive efficiency. When the team struggles offensively, this lack of defensive focus can have adverse effects on the Thunder’s ability to win, especially in the playoffs.

The thing about defensive breakdowns is that they are usually a combination of several defensive breakdowns in one series. It’s not just one play in a possession that causes this. It’s usually a chain reaction of defensive lapses. The first thing the Thunder struggle with is their pick-n-roll defense. The Thunder guards, Russell Westbrook, in particular, have a tendency to go over the pick, instead of fighting through it to stay in front of their man. The problem with this is if the big man doesn’t hedge over a bit, the opposing guard just blows right by them and past their primary defender.

It’s a play like this where you have to know your opponent’s tendencies. If the scenario is guarding a slower guard (i.e. Jason Kidd or Mike Conley), then the Thunder guard can go over the screen as there is no threat of a blow-by. The only threat is if the guard is a competent 3-point shooter. The big man in this situation has to know who he is guarding and decide whether to hedge or stay with his man. In this case, if we are talking about Dirk Nowitzki or Zach Randolph, then it would probably be best for the defending big man to stay on his man.

If the situation is changed to a speedier guard, such as Ty Lawson or Tony Parker, then the big will have to hedge to allow the defending guard a chance to stay in front of his man. The worst thing that can happen in this situation is a switch, where the big is guarding a speedy guard, and the defending guard is on the offensive big. This opens up a ton of options for the offense and puts a lot of pressure on the defense.

The primary goal of the pick-n-roll is to allow movement towards the rim. But, against the Thunder, this is also achieved through dribble penetration. When he was drafted out of UCLA, Russell Westbrook was advertised as a defensive guard, having just won Pac-10 defensive player of the year. But what worked in college (gambling on steals, using other-worldly athleticism to pressure opponents) hasn’t worked quite as well in the NBA where the world’s best basketball players play. A lot of what makes defense work is where you are positioned. If you are not in the correct defensive position, an NBA player will blow by you in a heartbeat.

Where Thabo Sefolosha is more of a technical defender, using his length to make the opposition adjust their play, Westbrook is more an instinctual defender, always trying to go after the steal. But don’t mistake steals for good defense. When you constantly gamble for steals, you put pressure on the rest of the defense to play 4 on 5 defensively. Eventually, the open man will be located, and its usually on the 3-point line or for an easy bucket.

This, then leads to the next defensive issue for the Thunder, which is closing out shooters. After the acquisition of Kendrick Perkins and the insertion of Serge Ibaka into the starting lineup last season, the Thunder went from squishy soft interior presence to hardcore interior presence. One would surmise, with that kind of support in the interior (to also include Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed), the Thunder wings would trust their bigs more and not sink in every time the ball gets into the paint. Instead, it’s become commonplace for the entire defense to sag into the paint when a breach occurs which leads to wide open three point shots. Teams like San Antonio and Dallas feast on this and always give the Thunder problems.

Once the defense has been breached and the ball is in the paint, then the advantage goes to the offense. When big men have to move around, it takes them out of their comfort zone. Our big men like to battle until the shot goes up and then box out for a rebound. But if ball is penetrated into the paint, then the bigs have to move around to defend the paint. Even with Ibaka leading the league in blocked shots, this still puts the defense at a disadvantage. If Ibaka leaves his man and whiffs on a blocked shot attempt, then his man is in position for the offensive rebound and put back. Much like steals, blocked shot don’t automatically equate to good defense. But if you are going to have Ibaka play free safety in the paint, then KD needs to slide down on defense and help out on the boards. While it may seem like this has been happening, as evidenced by Durant averaging a career high 7.9 rebounds per game, it also needs to be taken into account that the Thunder have played a lot more small ball with Durant at the 4 this season.

The most important issue with the Thunder’s lack of defensive intensity is their will. A lot of their deficiencies can be overcome by focusing more on the defensive end and working smarter. Ron Adams may have been a great defensive strategist. But even more important was that he held the players accountable for their actions on the defensive end. Once he left, there was a general sense of apathy concerning smart defensive basketball. The Thunder were content with just being good enough defensively and letting their athleticism dictate their defensive schemes. This is especially evident in the 4th quarter of close games. When the Thunder are focused, they can play great defensively and use that close out games.

It’s not all bad though. Due to their athleticism, length, and youth, the Thunder are one of the better teams at defending the fast break. They are constantly stifling transition opportunities for the opposition and cause a good number of turnovers defending the fast break. As we saw in the 4 game stretch from March 25th thru April 1st, where the Thunder played the Heat, Trailblazers, Lakers, and Bulls, the Thunder can put together a string of great defensive games. The question becomes, will that translate to the playoffs?