Staying True to Thunder Goals

The Thunder has season-long goals- ones that will bear out results as the season unfolds- but each and every day, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team works towards achieving them.

As it heads into tonight’s contest against the 29-15 Memphis Grizzlies, the 34-11 Thunder wants to stick true to its identity and the goals it set forth at the beginning of the season. Defensive intensity, sharing the ball, keeping turnovers to a reasonable level and boxing out consistently were all areas in which the Thunder hoped to improve this season. With those objectives in mind, team leaders like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook can set a good example for the rest of the squad.

“We just have to be ourselves, always play hard and always respect our opponent no matter who is on the court, and stick with our game plan,” Durant said. “It’s going to be a fun game tonight. We always have battles against these guys.”

Memphis made a trade on Wednesday night, putting the roster in flux for tonight’s showdown in Chesapeake Energy Arena. Nevertheless, the Thunder knows Lionel Hollins’ club will be prepared and excited to square off against its Western Conference rivals. With the imposing presence of big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, along with the shifty Mike Conley and the physical Tony Allen, the Grizzlies are a force on all areas of the court.

In particular, the Grizzlies are a force on the offensive glass, averaging 13.6 per game, just 0.1 off the league-leading Denver Nuggets. As a result, Thunder big men like Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison, along with Durant and company on the perimeter, will need to be keyed in on preventing second chance opportunities.

“We know these guys are great at offensive rebounding,” Durant said. “Not just their bigs, but their guards. Their wings do a great job. Tony Allen is probably one of the best in the league at his position.”

”Those guys are going to be battling down there,” Durant continued. “I think the perimeter guys just have to run in there. Some rebounds are going to be long, some rebounds are going to fall right in your hands. As long you go in there and help, it’s going to mean a lot to us.”

On the offensive end, the Thunder also needs to just stick with its normal game plan of spreading the floor properly, staying aggressive and finding the open teammate to make the right play. The Grizzlies rank seventh in opponent field goal percentage, so while the opportunities might be more difficult than normal the Thunder has to dig that much deeper in its execution. Durant in particular said at this morning’s shoot-around that he wants to be effective within the flow of the offense.

“It’s just letting the game come to me and not trying to force anything,” Durant said. “Tony Allen is such a great on-ball defender. He’s smaller than me but he does a great job of contesting and using his hands. I have to make sure all my shots are precise and all my movements are precise and that I’m just coming off and shooting a good shot. I just have to be patient with it.”

An added boost for the Thunder tonight will be the fact that finally, after two weeks away from Chesapeake Energy Arena, the team will be playing in front of its loyal Oklahoman fans. The ten-day, six-game road trip to the west coast was the longest and most challenging one of the season, making tonight’s homecoming that much more sweet.

“You always feel refreshed coming off the road,” Durant said. “Our fans ignite us no matter what. It’s always great to come back here and play… It feels good to sleep in your own bed, see your own fans and play in this atmosphere. Hopefully it’s a good one.”