Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder's Achilles Heel - defending the three

It has been a problem all season long and the most recent loss to the Phoenix Suns has just highlighted the issue again – the Oklahoma City Thunder have huge trouble defending the long range shot.

The game has evolved over the past decade and it has never been more evident than in today’s NBA. Most teams have gone away from requiring a star center to win it all, and are now relying on outside shooting to space the floor, open the lane and make it difficult to double team the post. The Thunder need to adjust their game plan to accommodate this change.

Behind the arc has to be the biggest concern for the Thunder as they embark on another post season run after winning the Northwest Division yet again and securing themselves a playoff spot. Not only do they seem to have a real issue in defending the three ball, they are also at a loss as to how to consistently make them as well.

Aside from Kevin Durant, the Thunder don’t possess a strong and consistent three point bomber. Russ can hit them on his night and Caron Butler has been brought in to try and add some punch from downtown, but all in all, the Thunder aren’t the best 3 point marksmen. Fisher, Jackson, Lamb – all can stroke the shot just not often enough to be relied on.

In defending the three, the Thunder are even worse. Reggie Jackson is arguably their best perimeter defender with Thabo sidelined but for all his hard work and effort and fighting through and around screens, he can only do so much. Good ball rotation, crisp passing and floor spacing allows teams with good long range shooters to hurt the Thunder.

Heading in to the playoffs, the Thunder are bound to run into some great shooting teams. The Western Conference boasts the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trailblazers and perhaps the Phoenix Suns as well. If OKC want to make a return to the NBA Finals, they are going to have to learn how to defend – and make – three point baskets.

The grind of the playoffs will wear down teams and that generally has a direct affect on the shooting percentage of teams. This may aid the Thunder as they are a tough, hard running and physical team and would love to be able to wear down an opponent. The problem is, if they rely on that, they themselves might be worn out come the later rounds and Conference Finals.

With six games remaining, the Thunder will get the chance to work on their perimeter defense and hopefully, Thabo Sefolosha will be closer to a return. He might be the missing piece to the playoff puzzle.

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Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder

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