Thunder Spending Time on Itself

Whether it was getting up and down the court and scrimmaging or taking turns in two-man, pick-and-roll games against coaching assistants, the Thunder honed in on ways to get better throughout Saturday’s practice.

The perpetual pursuit of improvement that has defined the Thunder organization for the past four seasons does not stop during the Playoffs or even the NBA Finals. The fact that the Thunder doesn’t know its opponent quite yet helped the team focus primarily on itself in practice, giving Head Coach Scott Brooks and his staff a chance to zero in on the Thunder sharpening its brand of basketball.

“We wanted to have an intense practice and we did,” Brooks said. “Our guys, I thought, came in very focused. The two days off were important for the guys. They came back and just wanted to get together and go over things that we’ve done and have to continue to do no matter who we play, both defensively and offensively.”

For veteran players like Kendrick Perkins and even young guys like Kevin Durant, the two recovery days the Thunder had between its Game 6 victory over the San Antonio Spurs and Saturday were vital. Getting rest and healing the bumps and bruises allowed the Thunder to come back to practice with vigor and force.

“We got up and down and scrimmaged a little bit, but it’s always good to get back to work and get back in the rhythm of things,” Perkins said. "We competed hard like all our practices are, so it felt good to be out there.”

From defensive rotations to offensive execution, the more the Thunder can raise its collective team game over the next few days, the better prepared it will be to take advantage of situations come Tuesday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. For a young, developing team that features a core made up mostly of 23- and 22-year-olds, the Thunder wants to utilize every opportunity available to improve and simply grow. In addition, knowing it is about to enter the NBA’s biggest stage drives Durant and the Thunder to work extremely hard.

“We’re just working on us and our offense and defense and how we can get better,” Durant said. “We know whoever we play it’s going to be a tough series, especially (since) the Finals is another level. It’s going to be tough, but it’s a challenge we’re all looking forward to.”

There’s also something to be said for focusing and concentrating on what got the Thunder here as a team. While game-planning against an opponent is important because those scouting tips can give an advantage, the Thunder doesn’t want to change who it is and what propelled it to these heights. By staying true to the team’s core principles, habits and style of play, the Thunder only strengthens the foundations of its teamwork.

“That’s what we do, that’s what we’ve done all year long,” Brooks said. “We’re going to continue to do that. Even when we know who we play, we still have to work on what we do and try to get that better. We know what we do, we know the system, we know how to do it, but we’re always trying to get better at it or tweak it here and there. Today was all about us.”

Once the Thunder finally does know its opponent, it can sprinkle in all of those adjustments and points of emphasis based on whether it is matched up against the Celtics or the Heat. With an organization and staff that is “first class,” according to Brooks, the Thunder is well-prepared for either opponent, and will be ready to run through the scenarios it is likely to see come Game 1 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“The coaches have been scouting for a long time, a couple days maybe even a week,” Perkins said. “We go over sets that maybe Boston will run, maybe Miami will run, learn how to guard each player’s pick-and-roll. It’s always a plus to just train your mind to get ready, know our defensive rotations and know what they do on the defensive end so we know which spots to get in on the offensive end.”