Thunder at Pacers Preview - April 6, 2012

Thunder Resets, Uses Practice Time to Prepare for Pacers

To say that the Thunder’s recent matchups against the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat were extremely intense and highly emotional would be a massive understatement. On Friday afternoon, Head Coach Scott Brooks said that the game in Miami against the Heat on Wednesday was a playoff atmosphere, but that during this tough stretch of games, there can’t be any emotional let-down on the road against the Pacers.

“I’m assuming it’s going to be the same environment tonight,” Brooks said. “This is a great building to play in. They’re playing some of the best basketball in the league. They’re fighting for their playoff position. We’re looking forward to an intense game, physical game, a game of toughness. We’ve had some great games playing that way. That’s who we are. We have to continue to be that way.”

Veteran point guard Derek Fisher, who was acquired as a free agent three weeks ago, is the only player on the Thunder roster to have faced the Pacers so far this season. As a member of the Lakers earlier this year, Fisher scored four points, grabbed three rebounds and handed out two assists in a Lakers home loss to Indiana. From that experience, in addition to studying the tape and recognizing the Pacers hold the Eastern Conference’s third best record, Fisher said it will be easy to forget about the recent games against Memphis and Miami.

“It’s not difficult at all when you’re playing a team like the Pacers. It’s going to be another physical, hard-fought game,” Fisher said. “They’re playing as a team. They have seven or eight guys that can be effective offensively and have big nights. It’s not about concentrating on just one guy, we have to be ready to defend all five guys, defend through the shot clock for 24 seconds, come out with rebounds and get out in the open floor and do what we do best.”

Brooks said that the Pacers have seven or eight players that can score anywhere between ten and 25 points on a given night, and that his team will need to be aware of Indiana’s pick-and-pop game. As a result, the Thunder managed to sneak in a practice session on Thursday in addition to this morning’s shoot-around, which gave the team the ability to work on strategy in trying to combat the things the Pacers do well. After all, because of this shortened season it is a bit strange to just be seeing a team for the first time.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge because you only have them once and we’ve had a lot of games lately,” Brooks said. “We don’t have a lot of time to prepare, but everybody is in the same predicament. We just have to go out and do the things that we do very well and do it on every possession.”

While the Thunder used its time on the practice floor in Indianapolis to work on the game plan for tonight’s contest, it also was a wonderful opportunity to hone in on some of its own strengths and weaknesses heading into the final stretch of the season. With 12 more games to play, it is essential that the Thunder irons out any wrinkles and finds ways to be extra crisp moving forward. Fisher said that attention to detail, particularly on the defensive end, will be particularly crucial in the months of April and May.

“Defensively, that’s really the area where you have the most slippage in a season where you can’t practice,” Fisher said. “So understanding our rotations and the spaces where we need on the floor defensively and how to help each other out, those are the things that you cover the most when you have practice time and shoot-around. So that’s what we spent a lot of time talking about yesterday and this morning.”