Thunder Readies for Raptors

Friday’s win against the Charlotte Bobcats was bigger than most. Coupled with losses by the Dallas Mavericks and the Denver Nuggets it moved the Thunder to within two and a half games of the Mavs for the #3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and four and half games ahead of the Nuggets for the #4 seed.

But looking ahead is not something this team does. During Saturday’s practice there was plenty of focus on cleaning up some of the sloppiness from Friday’s 99-82 win.

“We were just a step behind and a second late on our decisions all night long,” said Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks, “I can’t put my finger on exactly why, other than we were just a little sluggish. Usually we play better than that but I think they had something to do with it. They play that half-court rough-and-tumble basketball game and they weren’t letting us move a lot on offense.”

The Thunder defense made up for things in the fourth quarter completely shutting down everything Charlotte was trying to do, holding the Bobcats to just three points over the last six minutes of the game.

Today’s practice was fairly short by Thunder standards but it was crisp. No one was a step slow or sluggish today.

“Everything was good today,” Brooks told a handful of reporters after the workout. “we had another one of our many, many great practices that we have. That’s what makes this team improve from month to month is that the practices are always good and today was no different, the guys really got after it.”

Thunder two-time All-Star Kevin Durant, who left last night’s game late in the fourth quarter with a bruised shoulder was fine by this morning.

“Yeah he went through all of practice today,” the coach said, “he’s just a little sore but he’s fine.”

Another Eastern Conference team comes into Oklahoma City Arena Sunday evening. The Toronto Raptors beat Oklahoma City, 111-99, when the teams played in Canada earlier this season.

“We didn’t play well in the second half of that game,” Brooks admitted. The Thunder scored only 40 points in the last 24 minutes of that contest while giving up 59. “They did a good job of making the right plays and I thought we just didn’t play well. We seemed to run out of gas.”

Thunder coaches and players watched the film of that game but Oklahoma City is a much different team now than back on December 3rd.

“We’ve really put most of our work in on what we’ve done lately and what they’ve done lately,” Brooks pointed out.

What the Thunder has done lately is win six in a row and nine out of the last 10. What Toronto has done lately is lose seven of the last 10 though the Raptors will be coming in off a 116-107 home win over the Washington Wizards.

“They’re a very good young team,” Brooks said, “we’re gonna have to compete against them. They’ve got a lot of nice players.”

More about the Raptors on Sunday.

Tip-off against Toronto is set for 6 p.m. Sunday evening inside Oklahoma City Arena. You can see all the action on Fox Sports Oklahoma or listen in on the Thunder Radio Network.