By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Thunder are an anomaly.
With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as the faces of the franchise, the outside perception of the team is that they are all finesse and skill.
However, the numbers tell a different story. Throughout the regular season, the Thunder were the best rebounding team in the NBA and that has carried over into the postseason.
“We are the best rebounding team in the league,” Durant said. “When we outrebound teams we have a really good record. We have to stick with what we do.”
Despite not having a single player ranked in the top 20 in rebounding, the Thunder found a way to top the league by a wide margin. Their 48.6 per game was 2.3 more than second place Detroit.
Even more impressive is their rebound differential of 8.4. The Piston’s were the next closes at 3.8.
Yet, Durant lead Oklahoma City with an 8.2 average, which puts him at 25th in the NBA.
What the Thunder seemed to have perfected this season is the art of team rebounding. Led by Durant, Enes Kanter, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams, they have 10 players averaging at least two boards a game. Randy Foye was close at 1.9.
“It starts with I think you have to have some size and some length and we have that across our front line,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “i also think, Steven and Enes in particular, along with Serge (Ibaka), those guys do a really good job of chasing the ball off the backboard. Enes has always been a terrific rebounder on both ends of the floor. But I think it’s something that has been a strong suit for our team the entire year.”
To illustrate how well the Thunder gang rebound, it only takes looking at Westbrook’s numbers. Despite being the point guard and smallest player in the starting five, he is third on the teams in rebounds at 7.8.
“I think it is huge,” Westbrook said. “Honestly I think we might be one of the top rebounding teams in the league and I think we have to use that to our advantage…I think as long as we continue to do that every night we will put ourselves in position to win the game.”
In Oklahoma City’s first three postseason games against Dallas, they are averaging 50.7 boards a night and their rebounding differential is 14.7. Even in their Game 2 loss Monday, they still owned the rebounding battle by 9.
Kanter is the perfect example of the mixed messages Oklahoma City can send out. Off the court, he’s is fun loving, joking and seemingly always has a smile on his face.
But when Kanter steps onto the court, that smile fades a little and he turns into a terror in the paint, gobbling up rebounds and putbacks. He leads the Thunder during the postseason in rebounding.
“I think whenever you step on the court, if you are nice, it stays outside the court,” Kanter said. “Whenever you step on the court, you just try and kill them. My personalty changes. I look at my teammates and they are having a fight, they’re having a war. So if I’m being nice to all these guys, it would work out.”
Even though this is Kanter’s first real taste of playing in the postseason, he has already adopted the right attitude of being a fierce competitor during games. And it shows itself especially when he is fighting for space and going up for rebounds.
Of Kanter’s 9.7 rebounds a game during the postseason, he has a 4.3 average on the offensive end.
“I want to give a lot of confidence to my teammates,” Kanter said. “Whenever they shoot the ball I want them to have a lot of confidence that there is somebody down there that is going to get the rebound. I am just trying to go get every rebound.”
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