A Week to Build on Both Ends
The regular season schedule has just nine games left on it for the Thunder, and Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team has a well-deserved three-day stretch at home without a game to prepare for the final stretch.
After winning two games in less than 48 hours last weekend over the Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz, the Thunder will host the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday before embarking on its longest road stretch of the season. In early April the Thunder will play six out of seven games on the road, including two back-to-backs, which means the chance to spend this week at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center and in their own homes is extremely valuable.
“We just want to work on the things that we feel are important,” Brooks said. "We’re not worried about the back-to-backs, we’re worried about having a good practice today and we did. Guys really got after it. The energy was great and the attention to detail was really good.”
“It’s important to get the work in, but it’s also important to rest,” Brooks said. “Most coaches like me want to keep practicing and doing drills and scrimmaging and special situations. You also have to rest the body and the mind and our players understand that we have to utilize all of our days, whether it’s a recovery day or a work day in practice.”
As the Thunder prepares for the final two weeks of the regular season, its main focus will be on the defensive end of the floor. Despite some struggles since the All-Star Break, the Thunder has held opponents to just 41 percent shooting during its recent stretch, where it has won six out of seven games. Over the past couple of weeks, the Thunder’s defense has done a better job of being locked in mentally, which has led to better perimeter defense and stronger closeouts to shooters.
“We’ve had some improvement in that area,” Brooks said. “We’ve been a good defensive team all year long. We’ve had some bad stretches, but those are the areas where we’re trying to clean up and get better and I see that we have in the last few games. We can’t have a few minutes where we’re not locked in.”
Those defensive stops have had a beneficial effect on the Thunder’s offense, which has been performing at an extremely high level of late. With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the way, the Thunder has always had a potent offensive punch, but the attention to detail on the nuances of the game have been a focal point this season. From veterans like Derek Fisher to rookies like Steven Adams, Thunder players have been on point in their spacing, tempo and timing. Assist numbers and shooting percentages have been high because of strong ball movement that has gotten almost everyone open shots within the flow of the offense.
“We’ve been a league leader in offense in three or four years or so,” Brooks said. “We’ve always been good, but we’re scoring in different ways, which is good. Different guys are handling the ball and creating for others.”
“It’s our spacing and our pace of the game,” Adams explained. “Everybody is getting to their spots and being disciplined with our offense. It leads to easy passes because everybody knows where the pass is going to be and where everyone is going to be, so we get open shots.”