Thunder Geared Up for Regular Season Finale
The Thunder solidified a 60-win season and the number one seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, but will be taking tonight’s regular season finale against the Milwaukee Bucks with equal seriousness as it did Monday’s clash against the Sacramento Kings.
While a handful of Thunder players will be sitting out tonight’s contest to get some much deserved rest before Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team begins the postseason, the game will be played with intensity, intelligence and sincerity. Young, developing players like Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, Daniel Orton and DeAndre Liggins are slated to play extended minutes. It will only be one game and thus one piece in the growth process, but it should be a positive forward step for players who may prove to be the future of the organization.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for them,” Brooks said. “They’ve done a great job all year of working hard and practicing and developing. That’s how they had to develop this year… I’m excited to see them play and they’re excited to get out there and play. It’s a game where they’re going to get plenty of opportunities to play a big part in the results.”
Kevin Durant was once a player in a similar situation – simply needing playing time to stretch his wings, make mistakes and to put some game action on tape. The newest member of the 50-40-90 club- a feat which only five other qualifying players have accomplished over the course of the season- will sit out tonight’s game. However, he seemed genuinely excited to see his fellow teammates who haven’t been in the normal playing rotation get some much deserved playing time.
“I can’t wait to see those guys play,” Durant said. “Coach said in shoot-around that no matter who we put on the floor, we try to win every game no matter who is out there… I know Jeremy and Perry and Daniel Orton and DeAndre Liggins are looking forward to this opportunity. I’m just going to go out there and support them as much as I can, be a good teammate from the bench. Hopefully we get a win.”
In spurts throughout this season, each of those young players has shown the ability, when given the opportunity, to make an impact. From Liggins’ 40-minute, 11-point performance in a high-intensity game at Portland to impressive minutes from Lamb and Jones against Atlanta and Orlando respectively to Orton’s recent near-double-double against Sacramento, each player has shown flashes of areas where they might contribute in the future.
That evidence, combined with their diligence, hard work and performances with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers, give Brooks and company full faith that they can execute and get a victory tonight.
“No matter who you put on the floor, your job is to do your job,” Brooks said. “Whoever is out there, I have confidence in them and the team has confidence in them, because they’ve done it all year long in practice or if they were in the D-League they’ve done it there.”
As a result, the Thunder will approach this game with the exact same focus, intensity and preparation as it would any other game. While the team usually judges its play against its own standards, each night there are aspects of the gameplan that are tailored for each opponent. Brooks and his staff expect their players, regardless of who they are, to uphold the principles set forth by the team all season, while also keying on the Bucks’ strengths and weaknesses.
“They have very dynamic guards with Jennings and Ellis,” Brooks said. “We have to be able to guard them… We’re going into it as we go into every game. Focus on what our game plan is and work hard and execute that. Play with energy, play together and put ourselves in a position to win the game.”