Thunder Will Enjoy Home Crowd Against Memphis
The Thunder organization and their Oklahoma City fans have a special relationship that goes beyond a simple connection between the team and the city in which they play. Thunder players got home from Dallas in the late hours of the morning on Thursday, yet nearly half the squad was out in the community on their off day, giving back to local residents and children. Tonight as the Thunder hosts the Memphis Grizzlies, the fans in Chesapeake Energy Arena will return the favor.
“It’s going to be really nice,” forward Kevin Durant said about playing in front of the home crowd. “We miss them and I’m sure they missed us. Just to play at home is always fun. Our fans bring a lot of energy every single game, no matter who we’re playing. So tonight I know with us playing them in the playoffs last year we have some history with these guys. It should be fun.”
Durant has an extra exciting bonus heading into tonight’s game considering he was just named a starter for the Western Conference’s All-Star team at the upcoming All-Star game in Orlando. The crowd and city that has helped him elevate his game to new heights will be essential to helping the entire Thunder team come back home to try to win one game in their building before heading right back out on another week-long road trip.
“Our fans are great,” Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “Our building is one of the best in the league, if not the best. Players love playing at home. It gives us a great opportunity but we have to take care of our home court. We’ve done a really good job (of that) this year.”
Coach Brooks knows that his team typically responds well to coming back to Chesapeake Energy Arena after long stretches on the road, and it shows as the Thunder holds an 8-1 home record so far this season. Earlier this year the Thunder faced a similar situation when they hosted Detroit after playing three straight east coast road games. Brooks’ squad responded with one of its best defensive efforts of the season, beating the Pistons 99-79.
“We knew going into it that it’s always tough to be on the road and come home for just a game,” Brooks said. “But the last time we did, we did pretty well against Detroit. We’re hoping to have the same energy and focus and concentration level that it takes to beat a team in this league.”
In terms of tonight’s contest, starting shooting guard and defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha will again be out and is listed as day-to-day. Daequan Cook will get the start again in his place, allowing the Thunder to keep a comfortable player rotation throughout the game.
Durant and the rest of the Thunder players are familiar with the Grizzlies after playing a hard-fought seven game playoff series against Memphis last season, in addition to the two road victories the Thunder has gained against the Grizzlies this season. Both wins were by five points or less, and Memphis is coming off of a 96-77 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, so Brooks is certain that with the Grizzlies’ ability to force turnovers and score in the paint, tonight’s game will definitely be a challenge.
“I thought they played as well as they played all year against Atlanta,” Brooks said. “They’re a good team. We know they’re a good team. We always play each other very tough. It always seems to come down to the fourth quarter (and) making plays.”