Against Knicks, Every Possession Counts for Thunder

After having one day off and another day of practice and community events, the Thunder is thrilled to get back on the floor at Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight when it hosts the New York Knicks.

At this morning’s shoot-around, the Thunder’s first-round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, guard Reggie Jackson, talked about how eager the team was to get back on the court in front of the home crowd.

“Definitely,” Jackson said when asked if he was excited to see some more game action after two nights off. “We had a little break and it was much needed, good rest after five games in six nights and I think we’re ready to get back at it.”

Facing a Knicks team that has inserted defensive-minded players like Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert into its starting lineup, Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks knows that his team must concentrate on being as efficient and effective on offense. Whether it’s getting out into transition for easy baskets or making extra passes, the Thunder will look to make the most of every possession tonight.

“We want to be very efficient in our offense,” Brooks said. “We definitely want to attack early and look to score in transition, but if we don’t have anything, we like to use the shot clock and keep passing the ball until we find a good shot.”

The Thunder comes into the game ranked second in the NBA in points per shot, averaging 1.31 points per attempt, while allowing only 1.15 points per shot on the defensive end, seventh best in the league. In addition, the Thunder ranks fifth in offensive field goal percentage, eighth in 3-point percentage and second in free throw percentage. These are all team numbers that have been keys to early season success, but is also a major focal point for Brooks’ team to continue to improve upon.

“It’s something that we talk about and we work on every day, and it’s like everything else, it takes time,” Brooks said. “It’s a process you have to go through. I would like everybody to be able to move the ball and get into the right space right now, but it’s still early. We have to get better. We have to learn how to just keep passing the ball and keep using the entire shot clock for a good shot and just try to limit our early tough shots.”

With the offseason acquisition of Chandler and making Shumpert their first-round draft choice, the Knicks are ranked 11th in scoring defense. On the other end, the Knicks try to capitalize on 3-point baskets, shooting 23.5 times from behind the arc on average each game. Coming into tonight, the Thunder has limited opponents to 28.7 percent shooting from 3-point land, and that perimeter defense will be phase two of Brooks’ focus on offensive efficiency.

“We don’t want to get into a game that we’re throwing up a bunch of quick, bad shots, because New York can win that game by shooting their threes,” Brooks said. “They’re shooting about 25 threes a game and they have guys that can make those shots.”

It’s no surprise that the Thunder is so eager to get back onto the court and execute Brooks' game plan. After playing on the road last Tuesday and Wednesday, the team has just tonight’s game against the Knicks at home before making an East Coast road trip where it willl face the Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards and New Jersey Nets. The chance to play at home in front of Thunder fans on a Saturday night is one that Jackson is going to enjoy to the fullest.

“It’s going to be great,” Jackson said. “They’re the best fans in the NBA, the best fans in probably the entirety of sports. I had great fans, but I’ve never had fans like these, so it just helps. Some people think that we’re probably tired, but that fan crowd is definitely going to energize us tonight.”