Sunrise on Sunset: Thunder Finishes up LA Back-to-Back Tonight – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC at LAC

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com


Broadcast Information

  • Tip-off: 9:30 p.m. CT
  • Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
  • Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network

LOS ANGELES – With the NBA’s commitment to extending the season schedule to be more friendly to players in terms of rest comes an interesting wrinkle to the Thunder’s schedule: a Los Angeles-Los Angeles back-to-back set.

Coming off a dominant 133-96 victory over the Lakers on Wednesday, the Thunder is back in action tonight at the Staples Center again, this time against the LA Clippers. Unlike the rebuilding Lakers, the Clippers are playing some of its best basketball of the season, winning six of seven games, including an explosive performance on Tuesday night at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Watch: Thunder-Clippers Preview

Head Coach Billy Donovan is intent on getting his team mentally and physically prepared to go back into battle tonight against the physical front line of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. After putting together one of its better road performances of the season, the Thunder can’t let the focus and concentration slip away one night later.

“The biggest thing for me is can we come back tomorrow and do it again? Can we come back with that same kind of focus and concentration and really be able to do it again against a different team?” Donovan asked.

“Just knowing and understanding that it’s a different LA team. It’s a quick turnaround for us,” forward Paul George noted. “Understand we have to come here and take care of business and get ready for another opponent.”

“That just goes to show you what this grind is all about,” forward Carmelo Anthony quipped.

After the many battles against the Clippers, including a hard-fought playoff series, Thunder fans are well-aware of LA’s brand of ball, albeit changed with the loss of Chris Paul this offseason. Jordan will continue to play above the rim in the middle and Griffin works as the inside-outside threat, but the Clippers’ perimeter players are a very different type of threat these days.

Newcomer Lou Williams, who Thunder fans are also all too familiar with, ripped off 33 points on 15 field goal attempts on Tuesday night, and is averaging 30.8 points per game over his last six contests. Undoubtedly, he’ll hit some tough shots and put the Thunder in binds defensively tonight. The key is to be able to bounce back from that and continue to play the right way on both ends of the floor. If the Thunder can do that, it’ll have a great chance of getting a sweep on this all-LA back-to-back.

“You’re going to have bad possessions, but what you don’t want to do is have extended periods where you’re digging yourself a hole,” Donovan explained.

“We have a lot of older guys and vets and when you reach adversity in games it has to bring you closer and not pull you apart,” point guard Russell Westbrook added.


Nick's Notebook

- With Andre Roberson out again tonight recovering from patellar tendonitis in his left knee, Donovan will again have the decision of who to start at shooting guard. In Roberson’s place last night against the Lakers was rookie Terrance Ferguson, who erupted for all 24 of his points in the second half. At Wednesday’s shootaround, Ferguson was locked in while listening to Donovan, giving full eye contact while taking in his coach’s message. Donovan told him to play his game, have fun, make the extra pass and play defense, and that’s exactly what he did.

  • “The easiest guys to work with or to deal with are guys you can explain things to and they can apply it,” Donovan noted. “He’s one of those kind of guys who doesn’t necessarily have to see things visually or experience things physically. You can talk him through things and he’s able to retain it and pick it up pretty quickly.”

- It was pure joy to watch the Thunder bench react to Ferguson’s first career start and career night. After the game, Ferguson was bubbling over. He called his mom, sister and girlfriend, but his mom wouldn’t even let him talk because she was screaming the whole time. In his excitement, Ferguson explained just how much he’s relished playing alongside three potential Hall of Famers this year, and even divulged how he grew out braids as a kid to emulate Carmelo Anthony. His teammates had high praise for him in return.

  • “As soon as I got here I noticed he’s a huge talent. I was very impressed by his work ethic, by his natural talent. The kid is really good,” George said of Ferguson. “He reminds me of myself a lot early on in the league, just a sponge trying to take everything in. He’s a special weapon, a special talent.”

- Once again the Thunder’s offense was on fire, with 36 assists leading to a season-high 133 points on 60 percent shooting. According to Anthony, it’s not just a matter of shots finally falling for this group, but a credit to the hard work in the film room and on the practice court to get each player’s mind and body oriented to their new roles within this team. For Anthony himself, he explained that tapping into what made him such an integral force with Team USA as a floor spacer and catch-and-shoot weapon part of what has opened things up offensively for Oklahoma City.

  • “It’s the small nuances that make us be able to be productive and do what we’re doing right now,” Anthony said. “A lot of things go into how we’re playing right now.”
  • “It was something that I had to accept and I’ve accepted that role on this team,” Anthony continued. “That’s the role we need from me for us to be successful. As a result we’re playing great basketball.”

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