Thunder Faces Utah in Final Home Tune-Up
Once the preseason is said and done, the Thunder will have played its seven exhibition contests in three different countries, three states and six cities, so Sunday night’s tilt against the Utah Jazz will be a welcome chance to play at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder is 3-1 in the preseason thus far, beating the Turkish club Fenerbahce in Istanbul, the Philadelphia 76ers in Manchester, UK and the Denver Nuggets at home before falling late to the New Orleans Pelicans in Tulsa. With its final two contests coming on a back-to-back in Phoenix against the Suns and in Wichita in a “home away from home” tilt against the Chicago Bulls.
Fortunately the Thunder has both continuity on the roster that includes veterans and fresh blood, making all the travel during training camp not a challenge, but rather an opportunity to battle through different circumstances. As Head Coach Scott Brooks continues to put the puzzle pieces together to find the best arrangement, the Thunder will use its true home game against the Jazz as a chance to get better and play to the best of its ability.
“We have a pretty good mix of young players and veteran players, so I get to throw different lineups out there and not have to worry,” Brooks explained. “We still want to play good basketball no matter who is out there.”
The preseason is typically a perfect situation for young players like Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson to get ample playing time and work through some growing pains. For the Thunder, however, it is also a great to mix-and-match lineups and combinations on the floor to figure out which player groups are most effective with one another. In Oklahoma City, player development isn’t just limited to young talent. Veterans are expected to continue learning each day and become as one with the Thunder’s offensive and defensive systems.
“They have to understand what we do and how we do it,” Brooks said. “It’s good for them to have a good chemistry with the new guys and the guys who are trying to make the team.”
Against Utah the Thunder will test its mettle against a Northwest Division opponent who has plenty of young talent in the form of Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward. The in-game strategy for the Thunder will be based more on its own standards and principles than specifically altered to facing the Jazz, but there will be an interesting wrinkle to the game.
Just 10 days after Sunday’s matchup in Oklahoma City, the Thunder will head to Salt Lake City to open up its regular season schedule against the Jazz. These two divisional opponents already are extremely familiar with one another, but the proximity of the two games will add to the chess match. Come game time, however, the Thunder knows that it will be about how true the team stays to itself and how well it executes on both ends of the floor.
“Both teams, at that time, October 30th, we’ll know each other pretty well,” Brooks said. “I don’t think we’ll be able to hide too much. I’m sure they realize Kevin Durant is a pretty good player and that we’re going to play him quite a few minutes.”