Thunder Uses Saturday to Prepare for Boston

The 82-game NBA schedule is a grind, but thanks to a locked-in game-by-game, possession-by-possession mindset, the Thunder tackles each one as it comes.

Returning to Oklahoma City after a road back-to-back against the New York Knicks and Charlotte Bobcats, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club had an abbreviated practice session on Saturday at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center to get itself prepared for the team’s Sunday tilt against the Boston Celtics at noon at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

For NBA players, to whom routine and consistency are crucial, a noon tip-off with Daylight’s Savings Time looming might be a distraction. Team leaders like Nick Collison, however, help the young yet experienced Thunder squad stay mentally sharp and prepared for the challenges of the NBA schedule.

“It’s just the way it is, Boston is going to go through it too,” Collison said. “We’ll try to get good sleep and be ready to go in the morning. We had a walk-through today… We have to be professional and ready to play when it’s time for tip-off.”

The Thunder has now won seven of its last eight games, including four straight in a mix of home and road contests. Sunday afternoon’s clash against the Celtics will be a physical battle on both ends of the court as the Thunder must contend with the Likes of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Even without guard Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have been one of the premier teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics not might not show it in the offensive rankings, but their balanced attack that features Garnett and Pierce, along with Jordan Crawford, Jeff Green and Jason Terry creates a threat because of how it manufactures offense.

“They test your defensive principles because they execute really well and they screen really well,” Collison said. “You have to be able to it the whole game and stay on the whole game. They’re going to execute the whole game.”

Much like the Thunder on the offensive end, the Celtics try to use ball movement, proper spacing and solid screens to free up teammates. In the half-court the Thunder must take advantage of its physical advantages along with its tactical ones, then concentrate on every possession to force the Celtics into difficult, contested shots. By being tied on a string in its defensive rotations and communicating, the Thunder has the ability to find success when defending the Celtics.

“They’re going to screen every time and they’re going to move the ball every time,” Collison said. “They’ll make you pay for mistakes and lapses of focus. That’s the biggest thing, just being on the whole time.”