Thunder Ready to Tip It Off Against Nuggets

It almost seems like it has taken forever for this day to arrive but it’s finally here. The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets will be the last teams to start the 2010-11 NBA Playoffs. They will tip-off tonight at 8:30.

Thunder players and coaches are more than ready.

“We got the last game tonight so we’re ready,” said Thunder backup point guard Eric Maynor, “It’s been a long layoff so yeah we’re ready to get out there and perform.”

“It was good I think to have those two or three days to get ready,” said Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha, “but now it’s time to go on the court and show it.”

“Yes, we’re ready to play,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks told reporters after the team’s shoot-around. “We’ve had to great practices and a very good shoot-around and so we’re ready.”

Ready for whatever the Nuggets toss their way. Denver guard Arron Afflalo told reporters at the Nuggets shoot-around this morning that he would not play tonight because of a nagging hamstring injury. Coach George Karl wouldn’t say whether he would start Wilson Chandler, as has been the norm while Afflalo has been out, or if he would begin the game with both his point guards on the floor, Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton.

It matters little to the Thunder.

“No because they already play a lot of different lineups,” noted Brooks, “and they play those point guards together a lot anyway and it doesn’t change what we do or how we play. We feel our wing players can guard multiple players and different types of players. We don’t have to match size for size.”

Maynor isn’t concerned with who will start for the Nuggets, he told reporters the Thunder will be focused on their own game.

“We’re just gonna come out and play the way we’ve been playing all year,” he said, “whoever they start, whoever they play, we’ve got our guys that we play. We’re gonna go out there and defend, play together and try to come away with the victory.”

Denver led the NBA in regular season scoring averaging 107.3 points. Oklahoma City managed to hold them under their average in their four regular season games (100.3) and in the last two games the Nuggets and Thunder played the difference was even more stark as the Thunder limited Denver to an average of just 91.5, almost 16 points below their season average. A big part of that was holding down the Nuggets fast break game.

“That’s the number one key,” Brooks said, “keeping them out of transition. I think they just had eight fast break points in each game so that’s very important for us but also when we take a bad shot or turn the ball over that adds to their transition game so we have to take good care of the basketball and get back on defense.”

These teams know each other well, the two head coaches know each other very well. But Brooks doesn’t feel that what he knows about George Karl’s coaching tendencies and what Karl knows about Brooks’ will matter very much.

“I know how he feels and how he thinks, after being an assistant on his staff, but that could have changed in the last four or five years that I haven’t been with him. But it always comes down to players playing. We have a job to lead our team and he has a job to lead his team but it always comes down to players performing.”

That performance tips off tonight at 8:30 p.m. inside Oklahoma City Arena. You can watch all the action on Fox Sports Oklahoma or listen in on the Thunder Radio Network.