The Oklahoma City Thunder are on a three-game winning streak where they average giving up only 94 points to their opponents. The only thing that changed over the last three games is newly acquired Corey Brewer emerging as the starting wing, officially replacing Andre Roberson who’s injured for the season.
Monday night, their offense struggled in the first half against the Sacramento Kings and their defense struggled in the third quarter, giving up 39 points but when it mattered, they got the job done which is something they’ve struggled to do all season.
Brewer coming to Oklahoma City wasn’t supposed to be an overly beneficial move in the whole scheme of things. Picking him up wouldn’t ‘move the needle’ according to NBA gurus. Apparently, those people forgot that Billy Donovan was Brewer’s former college coach and knows his strengths and weaknesses better than any media member, GM or NBA head coach. As result, he’s utilizing Brewer in a very similar way that he did Roberson. The only major difference is him having the green light to shoot the three-pointer.
Brewer shooting threes? “Blasphemy”, they said.
He’s a 28.2 percent career shooting from long range and has shot an even worse 18 percent this season before joining the Thunder. Somehow in his five games with the Thunder, he’s shooting 38.9 percent with most of his threes coming from the corner, (where Roberson used to park his offensive game). And just like Dre, he’s been slashing from corner-to-corner, occasionally getting put-backs or catching a driving Westbrook pass for an easy finish at the rim.
Brewer averages four points per game on the season but in his four games of meaningful playing time with the Thunder, his average has risen significantly to 13.7 points.
The Thunder’s replacement for an injured Roberson thus far is a veteran, with a ton of playoff experience, who can shoot better, and holds his own and then some on the defensive end.
Defensively, Brewer provides the mismatch the Thunder hung their hat on throughout the season. Just like with Roberson, Brewer makes OKC’s backcourt lethal, playing alongside a handsy Paul George and an athletic, capable defender in Russell Westbrook. This is one of the major dynamics that beat the Golden State Warriors twice this season by an average margin of 18.5 points. Without this dynamic, the Warriors took full advantage of this hole in OKC’s defense and blew them out 112-80 on the backs of their big four, who combined for 80 points.
A title may not be in the cards for the Thunder but don’t rule them out. Corey Brewer has grown accustomed to this juncture of the season through his 11-year career and knows exactly how to adjust to the needs of his team.
The Thunder are fourth in the ever-changing Western Conference playoff hunt and 11 of their remaining 13 games will come against playoff teams. So, before giving all the glory to Brewer, let’s see how he responds to this competition to end the regular season.