OKC at CLE Preview – Maintaining Defensive Focus

CLEVELAND – After a day to refine its habits even further, the Thunder gets a chance to prove it back out on the floor Thursday night.

With a road test against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Thunder wants to use its practice on Wednesday in Chicago and Thursday morning’s shoot-around as forward momentum to keep up the defensive prowess it showed Monday night against the Chicago Bulls. In holding Chicago to just 34.5 percent shooting and 85 points, the Thunder was sharp at the point of attack, kept opposing perimeter players out of the paint and finished off possessions with rebounds to get out in transition on offense. Tonight against the Cavaliers, the Thunder wants to keep up that defensive intensity and execution.

“The activity on the basketball was good,” Brooks explained. “We want to continue to build on that and just continue to take care of our half-court defense and that is pressuring the ball and having four guys helping out when needed. I thought we did a better job of closing out than we have in the past.”

“We have to make sure we keep them off the offensive glass,” Brooks said. “We can’t get beat in the half-court off their backdoor cuts and their pump fakes.”

On the offensive end, the Thunder will need to work fluidly with one another to find easy shots and get high percentage shots in the flow of the offense. With Kevin Durant facilitating offense and shooters like Serge Ibaka, Derek Fisher and Caron Butler along the perimeter, the Thunder will try to space the floor and create driving lanes.

If Brooks’ squad can perform on both sides of the floor by playing stout defense and forceful offense, it will have a great chance to come away with a win. A victory tonight would be the Thunder’s 50th of the season with 14 more regular season games to go. Although the Thunder understands that 50-win benchmark is a solid benchmark for a successful season, it knows that it is just one step on the way to its ultimate goals of being competitive late in the Playoffs.

“We always have bigger goals in mind,” Durant said. “It’s definitely a step forward. We can’t get to where we want to get to without playing these games. We have to build habits and get better. That’s what we’ve been doing. Each year we’ve had some great times and bad times, but that’s a part of the season. Hopefully we get to 50 tonight.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 0-1 against the Cavaliers this season, and overall is 3-7 against Cleveland in the regular season.

- Kevin Durant’s streak of scoring 25-or-more points has reached 32 straight games, the most since Michael Jordan in the late 1980’s.

- In his last nine games, Russell Westbrook is averaging 23.3 points on 49.6 percent shooting.

Broadcast Info:

6:00 p.m. CT. TV – Fox Sports Oklahoma; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network