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Thunder and the corner 3: lessons from the Clippers

The Thunder and Clippers have both struggled to defend against the 3-point shot this season. Will they be able to adjust when the playoffs arrive?


Earlier this season, the Thunder were showing a staggering level of incompetence in how they defended the corner-3 point shot, statistically one of the best shots available in the game. The result was that OKC was losing games in embarrassing fashion, as we chronicled in this post.

Coach Nick, our good friend and sometime Russell Westbrook critic, actually put together a really outstanding video series that looks at defending the 3-point shot. The topic of his analysis is actually the Clippers, but it is well worth your time to look closely at the Clips' defensive breakdowns because we see a lot of the exact same thing when the Thunder defense gets sloppy.

Since the early part of the season, OKC has done a much, much better job defending against the 3-point shot. While it is impossible to cover every aspect of the court, given the spacing, the Thunder have been markedly better in protecting those corner spots that are like the soft underbelly of a defense, as well as challenging open looks.

Here is the Thunder's defensive performance in the past 6 games:

Team 3PM 3PA 3PT%
Mavericks 9 21 42.9%
Nuggets 4 21 19.0%
Grizzlies 6 15 41.0%
Magic 7 27 25.9%
Trail Blazers 10 26 38.5%
Wizards 5 20 25.0%

The Mavericks shot the best out of the bunch, and that is perhaps why they were able to make the game much closer than it should have been. The Grizzlies' percentage is also impressive, but for that we have to keep in mind that 4 of those shots were from Jarryd Bayless, one of which was a clutch shot that sent the game into overtime. Aside from Bayless' performance, it is difficult to argue that the Thunder are playing careless against the 3-point arc.

This will be a key area to be mindful of as the playoffs approach. As Coach Nick points out in the video, teams like the Thunder and Clippers cannot afford to slip in this area if they are to be able to count on their defense when it matters most.