Brooks Hopes Bench Will Continue to Provide Spark

Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks has turned to his bench twice in the past week to look for a spark and found it in rookie point guard Reggie Jackson against the Utah Jazz and in guard Royal Ivey against the Houston Rockets.

Tonight against the Golden State Warriors, Brooks is looking for another reserve to step up as starting center Kendrick Perkins will sit out tonight’s game.

“Perk is out tonight,” Brooks said. “He banged knees in the last minute or two of the last game. It’s just a knee contusion. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. … Nazr (Mohammed) will start. Everybody will get extended minutes.”

With Mohammed getting the nod with the first unit, Brooks said Cole Aldrich will see some minutes tonight, playing with Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant along the front line. With the Warriors' front line of David Lee and Andris Biedrins, it will be important for each of the Thunder’s big men to step up and execute their individual roles throughout the game.

“Cole will get an opportunity tonight,” Brooks said. “I’m looking forward to it. He’s played well in practice, he works hard. We’re winning games and our bigs are doing a great job. We have a good group of bigs. It’s not a surprise how well they play. Cole is right there. He puts himself in a position to be ready by the work that he puts in. So we’ll see tonight how many minutes, but I’m confident that he’s going to do well.”

If Aldrich comes in and continues his good run of play, which featured a four-point, four-rebound effort in only five minutes against Utah on Tuesday, it will be yet another instance of a Thunder reserve player stepping up. Jackson played a career-high 24 minutes and racked up eight assists in that same Utah contest at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The next night, Ivey came in and played five crucial, energy-filled first-half minutes and logged another five in the second half of the game at Houston.

“Last game I thought his defense was on point every time down court,” Brooks said of Ivey. “That’s what Royal gives us. He gives us that every day in practice, his spirit to compete. Every possession it’s there, and the last game, it’s unfortunate that we didn’t win, but I thought his five minutes that he had in the first half changed the whole game around for us.”

With 48 minutes in a game, it’s nearly impossible for the team’s main unit to play high-intensity basketball the entire time without a drop-off. As a result, the Thunder sees its bench as such a critical aspect of the team. Players like James Harden who come in off the bench hope to build up a lead during their time on the court, and starters like Serge Ibaka watch their teammates come in and hustle during those stretches and it lifts up the first unit once it returns to the lineup.

“I think for us, it’s good,” Ibaka said. “The season is long, our bodies sometimes get tired. So it’s good to see people like Royal step up to help the team and bring some energy.”

In terms of tonight’s contest, the Thunder knows it will have its hands full with a run-and-gun, high-octane Golden State club. The way the Warriors play, they may give the Thunder an opportunity to play small, according to Brooks. This is the third of three meetings between Oklahoma City and Golden State this season, with the Thunder winning both games in Oakland. Brooks knows that in order to win the third one, he’ll need all of his available players to come in and bring maximum effort and quality minutes.

“We count on our bench,” Brooks said. “We count on all of our guys. You only can play so many guys in this league. There are only 240 minutes to go around, and we have a lot of good players that deserve the minutes, but you have to figure out the minutes every game. We have a good group of guys that are always waiting for their opportunity. They work hard before games, they work hard before practice, during practice and when we call upon them, they’re ready to play. I give them all the credit.”