OKC vs. SAC Preview – Individual Defense Important

The Thunder is coming down the home stretch, and wants to sprint its best to the finish.

Tonight’s home tilt at Chesapeake Energy Arena marks the Thunder’s fifth-to-last game in Oklahoma City during the regular season. On Thursday night, the Thunder clinched a Playoff spot for the fifth consecutive season, an accomplishment that neither the team nor its fans takes for granted. As a result, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club, led by Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison, help bring a sense of urgency and pride to the floor each night.

Tonight, the focus will be on the defensive end of the floor as the team hopes to stop dribble penetration, close out on three-point shooters and box out strongly to secure rebounds.

“We never want to take playing at home for granted,” Durant said. “Coming down to the last few games we want to focus in and be ready every time we step on that court. Guys know how valuable this time is and know how important practices and shoot arounds are.”

“It’s just being aware on the defensive end,” Durant explained. “Offensively, keep moving the ball. We’re playing well offensively but defensively being more aware and making second-and-third efforts.”

The foe tonight will be a challenging one. Shifty Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, who averages over 20 points per game, will be a handful to deal with on the perimeter if he plays, although he’s listed as a game-time decision. Regardless, the Kings have two other 20-point scorers in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay who present issues for every individual defender in the league. Cousins’ bruising style in the paint and Gay’s ability to score one-on-one and shoot over defenders will both be issues the Thunder must grapple with for 48 minutes tonight.

“He’s having an All-Star year,” Brooks said. “He didn’t make it, but he’s right there. The guy can do it all. He can score down low and can shoot the midrange. He’s a great rebounder and amazing passer. We definitely have to guard him on all spots of the floor.”

“They have three guys who can individually score on you without a screen,” Brooks said. “It’ll definitely be a challenge. We’ll definitely have to lock in on that defensive end.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 2-0 against the Kings this season, and overall is 17-3 against Sacramento in the regular season.

- The Thunder is 10-2 in Friday night games so far this season and 8-4 in the month of March

- The Thunder is 45-7 when grabbing the same or more rebounds than its opponent and just 7-12 when grabbing fewer rebounds than its opponent

Broadcast Info:

7:00 p.m. CT. TV – Fox Sports Oklahoma; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network