Thunder Hope To Avoid Road Trip Sweep

By Randy Renner

One of the advantages of the Thunder being based somewhat in the middle of the country is the opportunity to generally avoid long road trips.

We're a month into the season and just now the team is in the middle of its first multi-game trip, even better for OKC is that this trip covers parts of five days with only two games. So the Thunder have had valuable practice time and time for players to spend more hours together than they normally would during a homestand.

“To have four or five days together it really builds chemistry,” Thunder superstar Kevin Durant said after Wednesday's practice in Miami. “It’s a big part of playing in this league.” 

It's something Durant clearly thinks is important and he says his coach does too.

“He’s all about being connected as a group,” Durant said of Billy Donovan. “He’s all about holding us to that standard every single day.”

Donovan is also still striving to have his team play with the consistency that's needed on both ends of the floor during games. It's something the Thunder had been able to do fairly well during a 4-game winning streak but only for parts of Monday's loss in Atlanta.

"We're just trying to chip away and keep trying to be more consistent," Donovan said. "The Atlanta game was one where we didn't quite have that ball movement we needed to so I think that's something we addressed and that we talked about at practice."

Tonight the 11-7 Thunder take on a 10-6 Miami Heat team that will pose a challenge to that search for offensive consistency. OKC comes in with the NBA's second ranked scoring offense at 108.9 points a game while Miami boasts the league's #2 scoring defense allowing just 96.3 points.

When the Thunder score at least 101 points in a game they are 11-2 but they're 0-5 when scoring 100 points or less. The lack of point production in those losses can usually be blamed on the bench. OKC's reserve players matched a season-low by scoring just 19 points on 7-for-31 shooting in Monday's loss at Atlanta and the Thunder are 0-6 when the bench fails to score at least 29 points.

Dion Waiters, a key player off the bench, averaged 13.5 points in the previous 11 games when the Thunder went 8-3, but he was 0-for-7 from the field and had one point Monday. Fellow reserve Anthony Morrow hit three 3-pointers but missed his other nine shots. The Thunder are 6-0 when Morrow hits at least 40.0 percent from the field.

"Every game is different and every day is different," Morrow told the team's official website. "It's about keeping that same steady work ethic and mentality."

Those areas have generally pleased Billy D.

"These guys are really committed to the game," he said after practice in Miami. "They're committed to their personal development. They get in the gym and they work."

Tonight's game tips off a little past 6 o'clock and can be seen nationally on TNT and locally on Fox Sports Oklahoma.

The Thunder will fly home after the game and get ready for Sunday evening's home game against Sacramento.