Thunder Rested, Excited for Challenge Tonight vs. Celtics

With the Boston Celtics in town, the Thunder is aware that it must be ready for a tough, hard-fought contest that will be as much about executing as it will be about standing ground. If Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks can get his players to not only win the battle in the trenches but also execute his game plan of forcing turnovers, getting out on the fast break and moving the ball, the Thunder will give itself a chance to win.

“We definitely have to match that (physicality),” Brooks said of Boston’s style. “We have to get out and run and use our athleticism, there’s no question. They want to slow the game and beat you up a little bit and make you play possession by possession. We want to create energy with our defense and score in transition.”

An added boost to that energy comes from the home crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Playing against a team like the Celtics who, according to Brooks, sets great screens for a majority of its made field goals, the Thunder will have to lock in and focus, but also have the fire to make it a vigorously-played affair. Like in the overtime thriller against Denver on Sunday night, the Thunder and forward Kevin Durant look to feed off the home fans’ noise and intensity.

“I do (draw energy from the crowd),” Durant said. “It’s a little different of course, on the road than it is at home. You hit a shot and everybody is cheering and you get some energy from that. Hopefully we won’t have to go through what we went through against Denver tonight. Hopefully it’s a little better for us than that. We’ll just have to play hard.”

The Thunder is 13-1 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, tied for the league’s best record at home with the San Antonio Spurs. During long stretches on the road like the one the Thunder embarked upon two weeks ago that spanned six cities in eight nights, Brooks and his crew could only dream of being able to play in front of their friendly crowd in Oklahoma City. Since the team arrived, the Thunder has steadily grown more and more confident in defending its home court.

“We feel comfortable playing at home,” Brooks said. “We have a great fan base that comes out every night and supports us. You always feel better when you have a crowd behind you. Our guys understand that we have to have home-court pride and you have to have energy every night in this league to get a win. When our energy is not there, we know our crowd is going to somehow give us the energy that we need to win the game.”

While getting to sleep in their own beds and stay at home for the past week has been great for the Thunder players, the team has still needed to take care of its job on the court, in addition to taking care of itself off the court. After an emotional victory over Denver on Sunday and a nice effort on Monday night to defeat the New Orleans Hornets, the Thunder utilized a much needed day off to re-energize and re-group before a difficult test tonight against the Celtics.

“(The day off) was nice, having four games in five nights before All-Star break is tough,” Durant said. “The day off was much needed for us and we’re ready to go tonight. … It’s cool to play in front of our fans, we’re looking forward to coming out and having fun tonight, playing the game that we love.”