OKC vs. DET Preview – Final Regular Season Battle

In the NBA, study and preparation is as key to success as having the physical skills to compete.

As the Thunder gets ready for the Playoffs, which begin this weekend, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ squad has one final tune-up to prepare. Tonight’s matchup against the Detroit Pistons at Chesapeake Energy Arena will be a great opportunity for the Thunder to hone its execution on both ends of the floor in addition to its game planning and studying habits. Team leaders like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have the help of veterans like Nick Collison and Caron Butler to guide the Thunder’s youthful roster be at its best on each possession.

“(We need) to go out there and lock in on what coach needs us to do, know your personnel, know the tendencies of each and every player and go out there and have fun,” Durant said.

At 58-23 heading into the final night of the regular season, the Thunder will again have one of three best records in the NBA and a fourth straight Northwest Division title when the end-of-regulation buzzer sounds tonight, regardless of the outcome.

Against the Pistons tonight, the Thunder faces one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA and one of the league leaders in points in the paint. The combination of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe averages nearly 30 points and over 20 combined rebounds per game for the Pistons, but the Thunder must also stop dribble penetration, which will come in the form of Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey.

“We just have to help each other out,” Durant said. “They have a guy in Stuckey who can drive to the lane and wreak havoc on us. They have bigs who do a great job in offensive rebounding and a quick point guard. We have to be on a string defensively and talk.”

“They have guys who play hard,” Butler said. “Andre Drummond is rebounding the ball tremendously well. Greg Monroe and those guys present a lot of matchups.”

Tonight’s game is an important opportunity for the Thunder’s full starting lineup and rotation to continue to gel with one another with just a few days remaining before, as Durant put it, “the second season begins”. This battle is also a chance for the Thunder to clinch the second seed in the Western Conference Playoff picture, giving the team potential home-court advantage in the first and second rounds of the Playoffs.

“We still have to handle business,” Butler said. “That’s what you want, your destiny in your own hands. We have a chance to clinch tonight and pretty much put things in perspective our way.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 1-0 against the Pistons this season, and overall is 9-1 against Detroit in the regular season.

- The Thunder is 19-4 this season when it starts its normal lineup of Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

- The Thunder will finish the 2013-14 regular season with a winning percentage above .700 for the third consecutive year, and above .600 for the fifth straight season.

Broadcast Info:

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