Back Home with an Internal Focus – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC vs. ORL

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


Broadcast Information

  • Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. CT
  • Television:Fox Sports Oklahoma
  • Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network

It’s just a brief visit back to Oklahoma City, but as the regular season days wind down and the playoff race tightens, this quick stop at Chesapeake Energy Arena is an important one for the Thunder.

When the regular season comes to a conclusion, all 82 games will obviously come to account toward the final record, but at 34-27 with just 21 games remaining, tonight’s tilt against the Orlando Magic is one the Thunder is taking quite seriously. But that’s not a different mentality, just a continuation of the way Head Coach Billy Donovan orients his team.

“You can’t look ahead because you’ll put unnecessary pressure and you’re worried about the wrong stuff,” center Steven Adams said. “We’re taking it game by game and just working on the small things, being in the moment, as they say.”

Coming off the road trip that featured a buzzer-beating win in Sacramento and an overwhelming challenge in Golden State and a loss to the Warriors, the Thunder internalized its focus. Rather than worrying about the ways it succeeded or failed against the Kings or the NBA’s reigning champions, the Thunder looked at its own execution on both ends of the floor as markers for growth.

Getting back in transition, maintaining the extra effort to keep the opposition in front of you on defense, converging over in helpside rotations and clearing the glass on defensive boards are all critical areas that the Thunder reviews every day. On offense, it’s all about keeping bodies and the ball moving. In order to generate advantage situations, the Thunder has to create separation and force two defenders to help, leaving at least one Thunder player open for an easy look.

“We did a lot of good things. We did a lot of bad things. They’re their own individual games,” Adams said of the road trip. “There’s a little bit we can learn as a team as far as executing different stuff and the plays and whatnot.”

“We just have to focus on our stuff,” Adams continued. “It ain’t so much about the other team. It’s just what we have to focus on as a team.”

Watch: Steven Adams

Of course within a competitive battle, there’s always a vital aspect involved that can be summed up in a simple acronym, used by many coaches around the league: “KYP” – Know Your Personnel. With the way the NBA landscape has changed over the past five to ten years, simply being aware of the tendencies and strengths of the opposing player at your same position isn’t enough. Getting cross-matched is a certainty in the world’s greatest league, so the Thunder will need to be vigilant across the board.

For Orlando, Nikola Vucevic brings his inside-out approach. Adams can handle pretty much any center in the league on a one-on-one basis, but it’ll take a team effort to limit Vucevic as a playmaker. On the wings are Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, one a high-flyer and the other a sharpshooter. Length, physicality, activity and tenacity will all be required to take them out of their games, and the Thunder can get all of that started before the Magic even cross halfcourt.

“Definitely transition, this team likes to push it a lot. It’s pretty much just staying solid on our defense,” Adams said. “They move the ball really well and they play together as a team really well. We have to be locked in.”

1-on-1: Jerami Grant