OKC vs. CLE Preview – Thunder Relies on Every Man
Bouncing back is in the Thunder’s DNA, and Wednesday night it gets another chance to do so.
After a tough pair of games after the All-Star Break, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ Thunder squad gets back to business tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Chesapeake Energy Arena, with the hopes of finding its groove on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. Despite its readjustment to Russell Westbrook’s return to the starting lineup and Kendrick Perkins’ injury, Thunder leaders like Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Nick Collison have been guiding voices and examples for less experienced players like Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones and Steven Adams, who will all be called upon to impact the game.
“They’ve been through it,” Lamb said. “They’ve been in the league for a while, so just being able to have somebody to talk to, listen to and get advice from is great”
In the third of a stretch of six straight home games for the Thunder, Brooks’ club wants to capitalize on the rare opportunity to string together a number of practices in a row. With two full days between each of the last three games, the team has had a chance to work at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, in a somewhat abbreviated training camp style setting. That time to develop a rhythm with one another and get on the same page will pay dividends over the final month-and-a-half of the regular season as the team makes a playoff push.
“It’s helped me a lot, being able to rest, being able to use the facility and then having some home games and playing in front of your home crowd,” Lamb explained.
That effort to improve as a unit before April arrives continues tonight against the Cavaliers, who boast not just the 2014 All Star MVP in Kyrie Irving, but a team with four top-four picks in the last three NBA Drafts. In addition, the team added a veteran presence in Luol Deng, and even with a 22-36 record, the Cavaliers are making a Playoff push, just five games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. As a result, the Thunder will need to be locked in on the defensive end, particularly in transition and pick-and-roll coverages, in order to get a win tonight.
“We looked at Cleveland,” Lamb said. “They’re a good pick-and-roll team and they have some good guards, so we have to be locked in defensively.”
“We just want to come out with a lot of energy and more focus than we have been,” Jones said.
In the Notes:
- The Thunder went 1-1 against the Cavaliers last season, and overall is 3-6 against the Clippers in the regular season.
- The Thunder is 40-11 this season when holding its opponents to under 50 percent shooting.
- The Thunder is 35-5 when it out-rebounds its opponents, including 12-1 when it out-rebounds its opponent by ten-or-more.
7:00 p.m. CT. TV – Fox Sports Oklahoma; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network