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Thunder three point guard lineup defies preseason expectations

They’re so small. How can a three point guard lineup hold its own on defense consistently?

Entering the season, that was the most common critique of the  lineups that put Thunder point guards Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder on the floor at the same time.

The answer to that rhetorical question, it turns out, is: Pretty well.

The Thunder, which is considered a good defensive team, has an overall defensive rating of 106.9. That means it allows about 107 points every 100 possessions. But when the Thunder plays its three point guards at the same time, its defensive rating improves to 97.5.

“We all bring different abilities defensively,” veteran point guard Chris Paul said after the Thunder’s 106-101 win against the Mavericks Tuesday. “Shai has his length. Dennis is a pest, you know what I mean? Me and Dennis usually argue a lot of times about who’s going to guard who. Like, I had Luka (Doncic) for a second, and Dennis said he wanted him. So, we all bring something different.”

On top of being able to hold its own on defense, OKC’s three point guard lineup has the best offensive rating (127.1) of any three-player lineup in the NBA that has appeared in at least 20 games this season.

“Their play-making is exceptional with Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander and Schroder,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “So, you’ve got to keep those guys in front as best you can.”

The Thunder, as it has done many times this season, closes Tuesday’s game with all three point guards on the floor.

Related Photos
Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) talks with teammates during a timeout in an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) talks with teammates during a timeout in an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-596719a040d61b05a97059bb568cd142.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) talks with teammates during a timeout in an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title="Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) talks with teammates during a timeout in an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) talks with teammates during a timeout in an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-cfef85bc861219c15c24077f063b6870.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) makes a basket as Luka Doncic (77) of Dallas defends during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title="Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) makes a basket as Luka Doncic (77) of Dallas defends during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) makes a basket as Luka Doncic (77) of Dallas defends during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Maddie Lee

Maddie Lee followed an NBA team from Seattle to Oklahoma City, she just took a 10-year detour in between. Lee joined the Oklahoman in October 2018 as a Thunder beat writer, fresh off a stint in Oxford, Miss., where she covered Ole Miss for the... Read more ›

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