Thunder Ready For Final Stretch Run
By Randy Renner
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins told reporters today he likes the way the team is playing now that he and Thabo Sefolosha are back in the lineup and he believes it's important for all five starters to play together in these last four games leading up to the playoffs.
"We've only played in what, 21 games? So yeah it's very important," he said. "I mean, we know how to play each other but just to get back on the court and remember what each guy brings to the table is important goin' into the post-season."
Perkins came back a couple of games before Sefolosha and then Wednesday night in Los Angeles was just the second time all five regular starters have played since Christmas Day.
"Our communication on defense (against the Clippers) was great and then the way we've been moving the ball and making plays for each other has been great," Perk said.
The Thunder are back from a road trip that had them playing high pressure games against three teams (Houston, Phoenix and L-A) that are likely to be in the playoffs.
Tonight they come back home against a team whose playoff hopes died several weeks ago. The New Orleans Pelicans have lost six straight overall and four straight on the road. They've also lost star center Anthony Davis to back spasms for the rest of the season and guard Eric Gordon won't be playing tonight either. He's scheduled to have knee surgery next week.
"Tonight (against New Orleans) we've gotta lock in and use this game to get better. We can't worry about who they've got playing or not playing because we'll lose focus," Perk warned. "So we just need to get better and win games going into the playoffs."
Kevin Durant figured New Orleans was "on track to be a playoff team this year," until injuries wiped them out, "but they play hard and they're well coached," he said.
And then Durant pointed out a potential problem when a team heading into the playoffs, like the Thunder, plays a team going in the direction, like the Pelicans.
"These are hard games, knowing that all their best players are out, but you still have to be focused and locked in. You can't relax because no matter who's in this league, no matter who's on the floor you can be beat."
The Thunder certainly ought to realize that by now because they've lost a couple games this season they should have won because they weren't focused in on a given night or at some point relaxed late in a game they thought had already been won.
"We have to build our habits and focus on us," Durant told reporters after today's shootaround. "This last week or so of the season is a building block for us to get better towards the playoffs and we're looking forward to another opportunity tonight. We just need to fine tune some things and we should be alright."
We'll update the blog just before game time tonight with comments from both head coaches and any last minute news from the arena.