By Randy Renner
The Thunder's closing schedule is heavy with back-to-back sets, six of them over the last month of the season, and today Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said once again that point guard Russell Westbrook would not play in both games of "some" of those sets.
"We have a plan in place" as to which games Westbrook will sit but Brooks wouldn't reveal it today after practice, "I'll let you know at the appropriate time."
That time is quickly approaching, the Thunder play the first of those six back-to-back sets tomorrow and Monday against Dallas and Chicago.
Brooks won't say until just before that Sunday date with Dallas whether Westbrook will start at home against the Mavericks and then presumably sit out the next night in Chicago or vice-versa.
Westbrook is not believed to have had any swelling or other problems with his knee and his conditioning also appears to be fine now. So it appears he'll miss some of these upcoming games just to be on the safe side.
"We had a plan in place early on when we brought him back and we wanna stick with that," Brooks said. "We just wanna, while we can, get some time where he can rest in between games."
When Westbrook returned to the lineup after his third knee surgery both Brooks and Thunder GM Sam Presti said Westbrook would be held out of some games and allowed to rest.
It's not clear if Westbrook will miss a game out of each of OKC's six remaining back-to-backs or not. After this first one the Thunder have two off days (Tuesday and Wednesday) before playing at Cleveland and at Toronto on Thursday and Friday.
The other back-to-backs are Denver at home and Dallas on the road on the 24th and 25th. The Spurs at home and the Rockets in Houston on April 3rd and 4th. The Kings and Clippers both in California on the 8th and 9th of April and then the Pacers and Pelicans both on the road on April 13th and 14th.
As you can see there are some very important games mixed in, especially that Spurs-Rockets two-step so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Brooks also announced today that rookie Andre Roberson will get another start in place of Thabo Sefolosha.
"I thought he did a good job last game," against the Lakers Brooks said of Roberson, "but he definitely has a pretty strong player he's gonna have to guard tomorrow night but he's excited about the opportunity. It's definitely gonna be a big test for him."
Roberson will draw Dallas shooting guard Monta Ellis Sunday night. Ellis is the Mavs leading scorer at 18.8 points game and is one of the best sharp shooters in the league.
"He's a strong right-hand driver, plays aggressive, shoots the mid-range jumper very well," Roberson said of his opponent.
In fact according to NBA.com's player tracking stats from Sport-Vu, Ellis has scored more points on drives to the basket than anyone else in the NBA (477) and he averages 7.2 ppg on drives to the basket. The Mavs as a team average just 12.2 on those plays so Ellis provides most of that punch.
By the way Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is second in the NBA in scoring on drives to the basket. He averages 6.1 ppg and has scored 390 points this season on those types of plays.
The Thunder will be trying to win their third in a row and sweep a three game homestand. The Mavs come in having won three of their last four but Dallas has lost 11 straight games to the Thunder.