Thunder Back On The Road

By Randy Renner

The Oklahoma City Thunder are back out on the road getting ready to play their fourth straight home opener, their third as the visiting team.

OKC was the home opening opponent for the Trail Blazers in Portland and the Clippers in Los Angeles and they hosted their own home opener on Saturday night.

And what a night that was.

"What we saw out there exemplifies what we are as an organization," head coach Scott Brooks said. "That was unbelievable. I'm so proud of our group."

The shorthanded Thunder, playing with only eight players, shocked the visiting Denver Nuggets 102-91.

Perry Jones and Serge Ibaka each had 23 points and after three games Jones, who averaged just 3.5 points a game last season, is averaging 19.3 while filling in for the injured Kevin Durant.

Saturday night the Thunder played inspired basketball and dominated the Nuggets, never trailing and leading by as many as 26.

The Thunder also played more zone defense than ever Saturday night and that's something that will continue at least while the team is so shorthanded.

"Yeah it's (the zone) is working," said forward Nick Collison, "teams don't practice against the zone very often and so it's something we can thrown in and throw teams off with a little bit."

Using the zone was something Brooks talked about last week, that and the need to be more creative with the offense and with rotations.

And Brooks, who never gets any credit for being a good coach in the national media, just coached his butt off on Saturday. He was constantly up and talking to his players, reminding them from the sidelines where they needed to be both on offense and defense.

That's something a coach pretty much has to do when he's using so many guys in different positions than they're used to playing.

Like Jones for instance, who's had to be the Thunder's backup point guard in the absence of both Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson.

"The last time I played point guard was in high school," Jones said and in those days he wasn't 6-11.

Tonight in Brooklyn the Thunder will go up against a Nets team that has opened the season 1-1, losing in their season opener at Boston and then winning in Detroit. The Nets are no0w coached by former Memphis Grizzlies bossman Lionel Hollins who's a pretty darn good coach himself.

The Thunder did some damage against the Nuggets down low with Ibaka's 23 points, Kendrick Perkins improbable 17 and Steven Adams scoring 13 but against Brooklyn they'll have to deal with Kevin Garnett who's coming off one of his biggest games in recent seasons. He scored 18 points and pulled down 14 rebounds against the Pistons Saturday night.

Perkins will come in handy against Garnett, his former Celtics teammate and mentor.

The Thunder will also have their hands full with Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson. Johnson has burned them before both with the Nets and the Atlanta Hawks. Johnson went off for 15 of his 34 points in the final eight minutes of the game in Detroit.

"What can you say when a guy gets hot like that?" said Hollins, who got his first win with Brooklyn. "We just tried to get him the ball in a good position and he took over the game."

Johnson will be the main responsibility of Thunder shooting guard and defensive ace Andre Roberson. Roberson was outstanding defensively against Denver but also had a good night on the offensive end, scoring eight points and handing out five assists.

The big question for tonight's game is whether backup point guard Reggie Jackson will be able to play. If he can he will start the game at the point and Sebastian Telfair will back him up and then Jones can stay at small forward.

Tonight's game tips off at 6:40 this evening (Oklahoma time) and you can see it on Fox Sports Oklahoma.



Randy RennerComment