Thunder Glad to Be Home to End Regular Season
Getting to spend some time in familiar surroundings and get back to the chalk board at home is important for a young, developing team heading into the playoffs. In addition, being back home in their own beds and with their families and friends after a road trip against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers is a major positive for the Thunder.
“It’s great, we had a long trip,” Brooks said. “We had some good games, we had some games that we can say were not as good. It’s always good to be home in front of our fans. Just to be home with our families is nice.”
Brooks’ crew will close out the regular season with home games against the Sacramento Kings tonight and the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, getting Thursday and Friday to await the Game One of an opening round playoff series that will be hosted in Oklahoma City on either Saturday or Sunday. With two wins over the next two days, the Thunder has the chance to finish out the season with the third best home record in the NBA, something that forward Kevin Durant hopes to take advantage of after the long road trip.
“Nine days on the road is tough,” Durant said. “My rookie year I was on the road for two weeks straight so it’s sort of the same. I’m just glad to be back here and playing in front of our home crowd tonight for the next four games.”
Besides letting the Thunder fans soak in the joy of their team clinching the number two seed in the Western Conference for the playoffs, Brooks and his staff realize that these final two games are an opportunity to continue to improve. Throughout the season players like Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison have talked about wanting the team to build good habits and become more consistent heading into the playoffs, so these final games will put those qualities to the test, even if guard James Harden cannot play due to his concussion or if Coach Brooks decides to rest some of his players.
“We still want to keep working on playing good basketball, working on our good habits,” Brooks said. “We’ve done a good job all year, we’re not going to stop now. No matter who plays, we still have a standard and we have to make sure it’s in check.”
Regardless of which players are available for tonight’s game against the Kings, Durant and company recognize that this is a chance to put the tough double overtime loss to the Lakers on Sunday behind them and find ways to get better. Durant said that the team will continue to make strides during the game tonight in addition to the time it spent at shoot-around this morning.
As for the matchup against the Kings, this is the third time in 11 days that the two teams have squared off, with the Thunder winning both of the previous two matchups in the past week and a half. Brooks said that the Kings’ offense is definitely a concern because of the powerful play of DeMarcus Cousins and the speedy playmaking ability of Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans. With being physical, rebounding and slowing down the aggressive Kings in mind, the Thunder and Durant see a challenge placed in front of them as yet another barometer of what they can improve upon moving forward.
“We respect this young team,” Durant said. “They remind us of us a few years back. They’re just developing with the pieces they have. I’m sure that they’re going to come out and it’s going to be a battle no matter how late in the season it is and no matter if they aren’t in the playoffs. They’re still going to play hard.”