Thunder Faces Jazz in Season Opener
SALT LAKE CITY – The day Thunder fans have been anxiously waiting for is finally here.
Opening night is the first chance for Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club to make its mark on the floor during the 2013-14 regular season, and it is an opportunity for the team to show the heart, determination, intensity and focus that it wants to play with throughout the year.
Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz, the Thunder knows that this season will be one that requires persistence and concentration to improve each day. For the Thunder, playing its best basketball late in the season is much more critical than the wins and losses early in the year. The work that it puts in now to play the right way and develop chemistry with one another, however, can pay major dividends as the year progresses.
"We have 82 opportunities to put our best foot out there and play hard, aggressive basketball, and we take pride in that," Brooks said.
Just ten days ago, the Thunder faced this Jazz squad in a preseason game at Chesapeake Energy Arena, so both teams got a glimpse of what to expect from its opponent tonight. The Thunder won that contest 88-82 behind a combined 35 points from Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka, in addition to a powerful bench contribution of 37 combined points for Thabo Sefolosha, Jeremy Lamb and Nick Collison.
In tonight's matchup, it's clear that the young Jazz squad will center its offense on big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, along with swingman Gordon Hayward. As the Thunder prepared, it watched film diligently of both itself and the Jazz, focusing on slowing down Utah's fast break opportunities but also how the combination of Favors and Kanter try to get scoring chances at the rim.
"Their tendencies," reserve center Steven Adams said when asked what he and the Thunder bigs have been analyzing. "What do they like doing in the post, what percentage they are if they catch it further out from the block and where they make most of their shots?"
Over the years the Jazz has been known for its execution on the offensive end through its precise cutting to try to get shots right at the rim. In addition, the Thunder expects physical play at both ends of the floor from the Jazz, who play well on their home court in Salt Lake City. Tonight, Brooks’ squad wants to be the tougher team both mentally and physically, ensuring that it forces difficult shots on the defensive end and finds easy opportunities on offense through spacing and ball movement.
"We have to play to our capabilities," Brooks said. "We want to be a physical team. We definitely don't want to get pushed around no matter who we play... We want to establish what we do and we want to do it consistently for 48 minutes for 82 games."
In the Notes:
- The Thunder went 3-1 against the Jazz in 2012-13, and overall is 12-7 against Utah.
- The Thunder is 3-2 in opening night games.
- The Thunder went 26-15 (0.634) on the road in 2012-13, one of only three Western Conference teams to have winning records on the road.
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