- Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. CT
- Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
MINNEAPOLIS – NBA teams compete at a high level every single night, trying their best to rack up wins to put themselves in the position the Thunder is in tonight: settled into a playoff spot with games still remaining on the schedule.
The Thunder has the luxury to give some of its players some well-deserved rest tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and with the regular season finale against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday and the first round playoff series against the Houston Rockets lingering around the corner, Head Coach Billy Donovan, the medical staff and Thunder players have all worked together to determine who will and will not play tonight.
Russell Westbrook (rest), Andre Roberson (rest), Taj Gibson (rest) and Doug McDermott (knee soreness) will all sit out tonight’s game, while the Thunder gets one of its players back – Alex Abrines, who is on the mend after sustaining a knee sprain against the Milwaukee Bucks last week.
“I’m so happy to be back. I’m ready to play some minutes and be ready for the playoffs,” Abrines said. “I need some rhythm.”
Regardless of the players on the floor tonight, the Thunder knows that it still has to play with energy, effort and the right mindset if it hopes to carry over its habits into the playoffs. It’ll have to contend with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but the Thunder is more focused on itself at the present.
“We still want to play to our identity. We can still work on playing well, trying to get better and improve,” Donovan said. “There will be opportunities for some guys in different roles than they’ve had during the course of the season. We’re playing against a team that is talented and gifted. This is another great, competitive challenge tonight.”
One of the areas of chief priority is transition defense, and covering up the three-point line. Both of those areas will be factors come the weekend when the Thunder squares off against the Rockets. Veteran guard Norris Cole has been pointing out some areas for improvement in slowing opponents’ fast break attacks. Steven Adams believes their work in that aspect of the game will be vital moving forward.
“We need to get better at it,” Adams said. “It’s reading and reacting from what you see. Some of us have tendencies to run to our man. That’s not the best thing in transition.”
Game Day: Steven Adams
On offense, the Thunder is still working to be consistent with its ball movement and scoring in the deep paint. Early in the season, the Thunder racked up a bunch of points on lobs and rolls between Russell Westbrook and Adams, who finished with some monster dunks or easy layups. Opponents have scouted that play, jamming multiple defenders in the lane to cut off Adams’ rolls to the rim. That’s forced the Kiwi center to take more shots from further out, or dish to open shooters on the perimeter.
“I’ve been shooting more floaters than actually getting all the way to the hoop because they really crowd the paint. That’s probably the biggest difference.”
Continuing to work on the repertoire of moves and offensive concepts is important, so that once the playoffs arrive and opposing coaches can lock in, the Thunder has more in its arsenal to unleash.