Thunder Working On Itself, Preparing for Rockets

The Thunder last played on Saturday night, which was the second leg of a home back-to-back set against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Charlotte Bobcats. The Thunder won 122-95 on Saturday, then had a day of practice on Monday and shoot-around this morning to prepare for its game against the Houston Rockets tonight. Head Coach Scott Brooks has quite a body of work from which to scout the Rockets, having played three games against Houston already this season.

"One of the things that they are, they're physical," Brooks said. "They're a physical group, they play hard, they play with a lot of energy... They're good. (Luis) Scola is a problem. He always seems to be around the basket. His shot fakes always bother us. I thought (Kendrick) Perkins did a good job last game. Kevin Martin is a problem. He hurt us last game, I don't know how many he ended up with, 30-something points. We have to play close attention to him."

The Thunder is 2-1 against the Rockets this season, winning at home and on the road in the first two games of its back-to-back-to-back stretch in January. In mid-February, the Thunder lost to the Rockets on the road, but learned a lot of valuable lessons about Head Coach Kevin McHale's group. Thunder forward and NBA blocks-leader Serge Ibaka says the matchup against Rockets forward Luis Scola will be especially critical, and that he and Kendrick Perkins must be focused every single second. Ibaka said that a player like Scola uses a pump fake on almost every single post move, but that Perkins did a nice job against Scola the last time out. Ibaka noted that Perkins will likely draw Scola as a defensive assignment tonight, but the entire Rockets team will be a challenge.

"They have good players and are a good team," Ibaka said. "They play hard every single minute on the court. We need to just be focused, do our jobs and basically we know that they have some good players who can go to the offensive glass. So we need to box out. It should be tough tonight."

After helping host a season-ticket holder event on Sunday afternoon, the Thunder players had the chance to get on the floor at the Integris Health Thunder Development Center on Monday for a full practice, a rarity in this condensed season. On top of that, the Thunder was again able to get a full shoot-around session in this morning as it continues to develop and grow as a unit that hopes to continue to develop for years to come. While having two full days plus plenty of scouting material on the Rockets has definitely been helpful as the Thunder looks to tonight's matchup, Brooks emphasized the fact that his Thunder team is never a finished product and is far from being done in its maturation. There are both individual skills that must be refined and also team concepts that can be enhanced as the Thunder attempts to build a long-standing tradition of success.

"We mainly just work on ourselves," Brooks said. "Work on the things that we need to improve on. It's important to go over their personnel and what they like, and we did that this morning with some of their favorite plays and sets. But it's always about us and we have to keep improving. We do things in practice that can help us throughout the season no matter who we play, not really game-planning for a particular team. It's always worked for us and we'll continue to do that. Our guys really enjoy getting after each other in practice."

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