Thunder Finding Ways to Improve Following Team Victory

The Thunder's victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night was recognized by Head Coach Scott Brooks and players in the locker room as a solid win that is emblematic of a team willing to sacrifice individual glory for team success. Accordingly, the Thunder took to the practice court on Saturday for a brief session in its attempts to continually improve.

“We worked on passing today,” Brooks said. “You have to keep finding ways to improve, but we do things every day and sometimes it takes a while for the improvement to take place, but we don’t do things just to say we’re going to kill 30 minutes of our day. Everything is for a reason and a purpose and hopefully this will all pay off. We have to take care of the basketball.”

The Thunder has turned the ball over too much for Brooks’ liking in the past few weeks and last night the Warriors forced 19 miscues. Brooks knows that those errors on the offensive end lead to extra possessions for the opponent and many times to three-on-two or two-on-one fast-break opportunities, which typically results in a high-percentage shot or a foul. While there were too many turnovers, the Thunder also had 24 assists, credited to 11 different players. Point guard Russell Westbrook said he was proud to see so many guys involved in the offense; all 12 players scored.

“It was great, especially with a great win,” Westbrook said. “That’s a tough team to play against. The way they play can be tough at times. We did a good job of coming out and sharing the ball. … You’re improving when you’re winning. We did a good job passing the ball and that’s one step for us to improving and one step to getting better.”

Westbrook also had a standout night on the defensive end. Teammate James Harden credited Westbrook with a top-notch performance in keeping Warriors guard Monta Ellis in check. Westbrook said he hopes to step up in that area of the game while defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha remains out. As far as his tough, lock-down effort last night, Westbrook knew it was all about his attitude heading into the contest.

“It’s just coming in with a defensive mindset,” Westbrook said. “Last time I didn’t get the opportunity to start off on him from the beginning tip and he got hot. I tried to cool him off, which is tough to do. This time I just tried to come out and be aggressive defensively.”

The Thunder held the entire Warriors team to 87 points on 34.8 percent shooting. The Warriors entered the game in the top six in the NBA in both of those categories and typically average 98.6 points and 46 percent shooting. With Nazr Mohammed getting the start at center for an injured Kendrick Perkins and Daequan Cook starting for Sefolosha, the Thunder’s pick-and-roll defense didn’t miss a beat, which is something Brooks said he hopes his team can duplicate in the future.

“A lot of our things that we did well last night, we always reinforce those things,” Brooks said. “Those are the things we have to do, defend and cover the pick-and-roll. We did a great job with that last night. Golden State, they’re quick guards and they give you problems. Their four (power forward) is a shooting four and he can put it on the floor in David Lee. We did a good job in our pick-and-roll defense. That’s something that we have to keep working on and that’s a league issue because every team is running 50 to 60 pick and rolls in a game.”

Facing a Denver Nuggets squad on Sunday night will feature another opponent that will utilize the pick-and-roll with its lightning-quick point guard Ty Lawson. The contest will be the second of five consecutive home games for the Thunder, something that Westbrook is excited about. When the Thunder has the opportunity to have a home stand, it tries to take full advantage of its Oklahoma City faithful.

“It’s definitely the place to be,” Westbrook said of Chesapeake Energy Arena. “The fans support you regardless of what is going on, and it’s a great thing.”