Scouting report: Mavs vs. Thunder 

April, 27, 2012
By John Carroll

The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the elite teams in the NBA and will have home court advantage at least through the first two rounds of the playoffs if they advance. They are a terrific offensive team that is led by the scoring of their two All Stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City is an unstoppable team in the open court where Westbrook pushes the ball and Durant and James Harden fill the wings. In addition the Thunder gets to the foul line and make opponents pay. They lead the league in free throw shooting, and in close playoff games the Thunder will have a major advantage in that very important phase of the game. Harden is the Thunder’s sixth starter. He is a prolific scorer who takes a lot of pressure off Durant and Westbrook. He can create his own shot against the premier defenders in the league. There is no other team in the NBA that can put three scorers on the court at the same time and can create a shot at any time by themselves. This is why the Thunder are such an explosive offensive team that could advance to the NBA Finals if everyone stays healthy.

If the Thunder are to advance throughout the playoffs they must be able exploit their strengths and hide their weaknesses. They have no low-post scoring to speak of. Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison do not provide a low-post threat offensively and they cannot get easy baskets or get to the foul line. They score only off offensive rebounds, interior passes on drives and an occasional pick and pop. Secondly, the Thunder must stop turning the ball over in the playoffs. They are dead last in the NBA in most turnovers per game. Against the strong defensive teams they will face, their poor decision making could cost them. Thirdly, their bench must provide a much stronger effort on the defensive end of the floor. The Thunder starters are a solid defensive unit with excellent shot blocking and rebounding but there is a drop off defensively when they go to their bench and this must be corrected if they want to advance throughout the playoffs.