- Tip-off: 8:00 p.m. CT
- Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
“It could either go two ways,” Carmelo Anthony said inside the locker room at Denver’s Pepsi Center at ten minutes after midnight following Thursday’s loss to the Nuggets. “We could let this one sit in our heads or we could put it behind us and move forward and get ready for tomorrow. That’s the beauty of being in this league. Sometimes the back-to-backs are in our favor as players because you get a chance to put that game behind you and look forward to the next game.”
20 hours after the Thunder left that locker room, and the team’s fourth straight loss, in Colorado, it has to battle another Western Conference foe, the LA Clippers. This time, at least, the Thunder will get to play in front of the Oklahoma City faithful it has been missing on this three-game road swing. There’s no time for the Thunder to feel sorry for itself. They have to start getting back on track.
“The good thing is we have another one tomorrow night, so we have to put this behind us very fast,” veteran point guard Raymond Felton noted.
NBA observers may be surprised by the Thunder’s 4-7 record so far this season, and frankly, the team neither expected nor wanted the standings to look the way they do right now. With that said, Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti, Head Coach Billy Donovan, the coaches and players all understood coming into this season that it would be quite the undertaking to get seven new players, including two superstars, all on the same page in short order. This is a season-long process, but one the Thunder is investing in every day with focus and intensity.
“It’s not going to be easy. You bring a group of guys together it doesn’t ensure anything or guarantee anything. There’s a period of time these guys are going to need,” Donovan said.
“We have a lot of guys who hate to lose, a lot of guys who are big competitors. That’s a good spirit to have. I’ll take that all day,” Felton said. “If we’re not frustrated, that’s a big problem.”
It’ll be no easy task for the Thunder against a rested Clippers team that last played on Tuesday in San Antonio. Thunder center Steven Adams will be evaluated on Friday morning to assess the calf injury he sustained in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game. With or without Adams, the Thunder’s frontcourt is going to have its hands full with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, one of the most formidable big men pairings the league has to offer.
Regardless of the matchup, the Thunder is trying to make strides in its own right. That can only be done through watching the film, assessing areas of weakness and strength and actively combating those problems and accentuating the positive aspects. That intentional, focused work is what will bring about the consistency the Thunder is seeking during this early season slump. To get out of it, a good start is to compete at a high level for all four quarters.
“Just putting a whole game together, honestly,” Westbrook said. “That’s the main thing we can do at this moment.”
– The Thunder come into the game allowing the second-fewest points per game in the NBA and with a point differential of plus-4.5 per game, seventh highest in the league. Those numbers are encouraging, but the defense is thwarted if the Thunder cannot come up with rebounds to close out possessions. That was an issue in Denver as the Nuggets racked up 19 second chance points, but the Thunder’s rotational box outs and gang rebounding has to be on point tonight against the physical, high-flying Clippers frontcourt.
- “We have to hit first. When we switch, we have to be the aggressors,” guard Andre Roberson said of the Thunder’s cross-matched rebounding when guards are on forwards and vice-a-versa. “All five guys have to come in and help.”
- “It’s a new defense for everybody, and we know it’s going to take time,” Roberson continued. “It starts on defense for us. That’s what we predicate ourselves on, then running and shoving it down their throats. We have to figure out the defense first and the offense will take care of itself.”
– Speaking of the offense, the Thunder is still intent on getting out into transition more, getting to the free throw line at a higher clip and utilizing the turnovers it is generating to create easy offense. In the halfcourt however, it’s still a work in progress. There are times where the Thunder is generating those high efficiency looks in the paint or behind the three-point arc. There are other times when the ball can’t find its way inside the perimeter, and the team is faced with a tough look at the rim late in the shot clock. The goal is to get more driving lanes to the paint, which can generate all the good stuff that fuels an offense.
- “I have to help those guys get downhill by different actions,” Donovan noted. “Because they’re switching a lot, sometimes there’s a guy in front of you and you have to be able to go by a man or move it to the next guy. That’s something we’ll take a look at.”