Thunder Getting Better, Learning from Each Game on Road Trip

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Thunder had quite a busy off day Sunday in Portland. Not only was it Super Bowl Sunday, but there was a full day for Head Coach Scott Brooks and his crew to review and learn from past performances as it prepares for tonight's game against the Trail Blazers (9 p.m. Central, FS Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network).

Brooks and company also spent time looking to the future and how the team can continue to improve each day. Right in the heart of an eight-out-of-nine game stint on the road and a stretch of five consecutive road games, the Thunder is still finding ways to get better, as it did during shoot-around this morning.

“We had a lot of time to dissect the film and see the things that we didn’t do well,” Brooks said. “I thought our shoot-around today was one of our best. We really locked in on what we need to do defensively. … Tonight’s game is a game about who we are and how we play and what we’re focused on is playing well tonight.”

Forward Kevin Durant talked candidly about his on-court leadership and the steps that he must take in order to get the entire Thunder team in the right mindset each night. He said the Thunder will need to take this road trip one possession at a time.

“Everybody has to play hard, starting with me,” Durant said. “Once the guys see me getting down in a stance and playing as hard as I can and rebounding and blocking shots, everyone will follow. I just have to do a better job tonight starting it off and we’ll see what happens.”

The game tonight pits the team with the NBA’s best road record (Thunder, 9-4) against one of the top home teams (Portland, 11-1). After playing at San Antonio (13-1 at home) and Portland, the Thunder will go on to face Golden State, Sacramento and Utah all on the road. Those three teams are a combined 23-15 at home, so Brooks realizes that this trip will be a tough task, but one that the Thunder is up for.

“We just take it one day, one game at a time and just take the simple approach that has been working for us,” Brooks said. “It doesn’t guarantee that we’re going to win tonight, but we’ve had good success because we’ve just focused on the game. Our guys love to play on the road. It’s always a fun environment. Crowds are always on you, but our guys seem to rise to that challenge.”

As for the job at hand, which is trying to take care of business in Portland, the Thunder knows it will have to stick to its core principles of playing tough defense, rebounding and sharing the basketball in order to win. With LaMarcus Aldridge, who Brooks labeled an “All-Star,” the Blazers pose a threat on the boards and on the offensive end. It will be up to a Thunder defense that ranks in the top 10 in opponent field goal percentage, opponent 3-point percentage and opponent’s points per shot attempt to key in on Blazers shooters and their post-up men.

“We knew going into this stretch of games, we’ve had the last couple weeks and this coming week that we have to really be focused and locked in every night,” Brooks said. “We have some difficult places to play, and on the road it’s not easy. Tonight’s game is the only game we’re worried about. We just have to play well for 48 minutes and give ourselves a chance to win.”