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Thunder emphasize defense in Russell Westbrook’s absence

The Oklahoma City Thunder are going to have to rely on more defense in the absence of Russell Westbrook.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are going to have to rely on more defense in the absence of Russell Westbrook.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With dynamic scorers like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder don’t have much to worry about on offense, but with Westbrook sidelined after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, the team will have to pick up the slack on defense. To Thunder head coach Scott Brooks, forging a defensive identity is not a problem.

“It's (defense) what we take pride in,” said Coach Brooks. “We're a defensive team.”

Thus far, the Thunder are seventh in the league in opponent points per game at 97.5. Opposing teams are also only shooting 41.5 percent against Oklahoma City—good for second best in the league.

With a vital cog missing on offense, becoming a defensive team is necessary until Westbrook fully recovers. According to Thunder center and resident enforcer Kendrick Perkins, going from a team known as an offensive juggernaut to one predicated on defense begins with instilling defensive principles in their young players.

“I think we bringing along the young guys,” Perkins told The Oklahoman. “You got guys who trying to get physical. Jeremy Lamb done impressed me the most with his toughness. He's getting down and dirty a little bit, getting in there on the rebounding.”

On December 27, the Thunder announced that Westbrook would be out of the lineup until after the All-Star break to address the troublesome right knee—the same knee that kept him out of the 2013 NBA playoffs and the beginning of the 2013-14 season. Westbrook was averaging 21.3 points and seven assists per game prior to the announcement.