NEW YORK – Over the past five-plus years since the Thunder arrived in Oklahoma City, the roster has been meticulously constructed while the players and coaches have worked together to grow together.
As the 37-10 Thunder tries to extend its nine-game winning streak to ten games with a contest in Brooklyn against the Nets on Friday night, it hopes to continue the upward trajectory that it has built throughout the course of the season.
Despite adversity and changes to the starting lineup due to injuries, the Thunder has shown its versatility, with everyone taking their cue from the leadership of Kevin Durant. Head Coach Scott Brooks has a bevy of long, athletic players that he can play interchangeably at a variety of positions, giving him the chance to match up with any team regardless of style.
“We have the flexibility to mix and match our bench with our starting lineups,” Brooks explained. “That allows us to play different styles.”
“What we’ve seen (Durant) and all of our guys do, it’s been over time,” Brooks continued. “It hasn’t just been this season or this past summer. It’s been years in the making. Kevin has developed his game throughout the time he has been with us every single day. We take pride in developing all of our guys.
With Durant as the focal point of opponents’ defensive gameplans, the rest of the Thunder players have capitalized on their opportunities to excel in their roles. One strategy employed by defenses regularly of late has been to try to trap or double-team Durant at the top of the key.
With speed, precision and intelligence, Durant has been both recognizing and analyzing where the extra defender is coming from and then finding the correct teammate to pass the ball to in order to create an advantage situation. With one fewer defenders than there are Thunder players on the back side, Durant’s quick decisions help get the ball in the next teammate’s hand so they can make a play for themselves or others.
“When teams double team, we have a philosophy that we want to play to the weak side,” Brooks said. “It’s like a mini fast break. It’s a 3-on-2 or a 4-on-3. (Durant) allows that to happen.”
“(Durant) has done a great job of finding guys, our bigs have done a great job of getting open and our shooters have done a great job of stepping up and making shots too,” Brooks explained.
It remains to be seen how Brooklyn decides to defend Durant tonight, but regardless of what is thrown at the Thunder, Brooks and his staff will ensure that the team works together to solve any problems thrown on the floor. The Nets are a veteran squad who have won ten of its last 12 games, including its last three against Western Conference opponents, one of which was the Thunder in Oklahoma City. In order to get a win tonight, the Thunder will have to battle through every single possession and impose its energy and will on the game for all 48 minutes.
“They have good players, they have veteran players, they have smart players and they have tough players,” Brooks said. “They have players who have been through all the tough times and the good times this league has to offer. We have to play well to beat them on their home court.”
In the Notes:
- The Thunder is 0-1 against the Nets this season, and overall is 7-3 against Brooklyn in the regular season.
- Kevin Durant has scored 30-or-more points in 12 straight games, the longest such streak since 2003.
- The Thunder is 8-0 on the road against Eastern Conference opponents, and has won five straight games on the road overall.
7:00 p.m. CT. TV – Fox Sports Oklahoma and ESPN; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network