Reinforcing a Strong Effort

How does a team follow up a great effort with another one? By getting right back to work with the same urgency.

The Thunder held a practice at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center on Wednesday to reinforce the defensive mindset it got back to in Tuesday night’s home win over the Houston Rockets. The Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd saw the Thunder play with extremely high levels of concentration, intensity and togetherness in the 106-98 victory as the team held Houston to under 42 percent shooting. Behind inspired play from Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams in the post that held Dwight Howard to nine points, the Thunder got back to its defensive ways.

“Last game it was the type of defense we’ve been looking for,” Ibaka said. “This is how we play... It’s teamwork, that’s the key.”

“Everyone had pretty good intensity,” Adams said. “It was a really intense game. Everyone was just locked in and pumped.”

Constant vigilance has been crucial to Thunder, which means it won’t rest just because it put together a 48-minute stretch of the type of defense and offense it prefers. A positive, focused effort was on display Tuesday, but Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club knows it has to perform at a high level on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, on Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks and on down the line. The hunger necessary to not get satisfied will help this Thunder club string together multiple strong efforts in a row.

“We have to look at that as just one game,” Brooks said. “We have to come back and do the same thing tomorrow night. I like the fact that we did it, but we have to play with a certain edge on both ends of the floor to put ourselves in a position to win.”

“You have to have one before you get to two,” Brooks continued. “We have a chance to get to two now. We have to make sure that all of our minutes are played hard and played together.”

Just like against the Rockets, the Thunder will have to stay sharp on both ends of the floor when it hosts the Lakers. Just four days removed from their last clash, the Thunder knows that communication in transition, proper rotations and strong closeouts on shooters will all be crucial to sustaining the defensive effort and building habits that will last for the rest of the regular season and into April.

From the players working in the gym today to the coaches preparing the game plan and the staff scouting opposing personnel, the Thunder has a full group at its training facility gearing up for each game with equal importance. While Brooks and company will look to repeat its performance from Tuesday, it will take another specific type of concentration and execution on both ends to come away victorious again.

“It’s good just to get back on the horse and we’ll just try to stay back on it,” Adams said. “We’re just going back to our same principles with the defense. We’ll try to keep that rolling now.”

“In order to win in this league and give yourself the best playoff seeding, you have to treat every game as equally important,” Brooks said. “That’s what we do with our scouting and our personnel reports.”