Thunder Back In "Game Mode" Now
By Randy Renner
Both Billy Donovan and Nick Collison told reporters the All-Star Break came at a good time for the Thunder.
“I thought our guys came back with good focus, they’ve worked really hard in practice,” Donovan said. “You don’t know where their conditioning or their wind is gonna be at but they’ve been able to get up and down and seem to be in good shape. We just wanted to get them back and work on our offense and our defense and I thought collectively we had two really good days of practice.”
“I think the break was good for us mentally,” Collison admitted, “and now we’re ready to get back in. We’re more refreshed and ready to go for this last push of the season.”
That last push begins tonight against the Indiana Pacers, a team that’s 5-5 over the last 10 games and currently sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings at 28-25.
“Paul George is having a great year and you know they’ve gone through some different lineups but Solomon Hill is a mis-match cuz a lot of tiume they’ll play him at the small forward spot and he can put the ball on the floor, create and do several things and then Monta Ellis is a great scorer,” Donovan said.
Of course George and Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook gave each other a run for their money in the voting for MVP of the All-Star Game.
Both players delivered electrifying performances in Sunday's memorable game in Toronto, with Westbrook claiming MVP honors for a second consecutive year by amassing 31 points and eight rebounds in the Western Conference's 196-173 win. George finished one point shy of Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star Game record with 41 for the East, further proving he's all the way back from a broken leg that limited him to six games last season.
George had a chance to set the mark but missed a 3-pointer in the final minute while drawing a double-team that included the Thunder's Kevin Durant, a tactic he light-heartedly brought up during Wednesday's practice.
"It's definitely going to be a little grudge," George joked. "Although Russ won (MVP), (Durant) took part in the double-team. So, I've got a little something for them."
It might take an All-Star Game type performance from George to get the Pacers past the Thunder, at least if OKC can pick things up where they left off before the break.
Winners of seven of eight and 14 of 16, Oklahoma City has scored 106 points or more in 12 consecutive games and is averaging 117.7 while shooting 49.1 percent over its last seven.
The Thunder's two superstars have unsurprisingly led the surge. Durant averaged 33.0 points and shot 43.3 percent from 3-point range over an eight-game stretch in which Westbrook nearly averaged a triple-double with 25.0 points, 11.8 assists and 9.8 rebounds.
Both had 23 points and Oklahoma City, now 40-14, shot 52.3 percent to earn its ninth straight home win with a 121-95 rout of New Orleans on February 11th.
Fans may get to see the Thunder’s newest acquisition tonight, combo guard Randy Foye was traded from Denver for third team backup point guard D.J. Augustin, seldom used backup forward Steve Novak and two 2nd round draft choices.
Foye is a veteran who is mostly used as a shooting guard but can play the point in a pinch. He’s listed as 6-4, 213 pounds by Basketball-Reference. He is also a career 40.4 percent shooter overall and 37.0 percent on threes.
However, Foye’s shooting percentages have fallen off the last few years going from 41.3 percent overall in the 2013-14 season to 36.8 percent last season and 35.1 percent this season. All three of those years have been with the Nuggets.
His 3-point percentages have dropped off too. In the 2012-13 season with Utah, Foye hit 41.0 percent from deep (the second highest percentage of his career). The next season in Denver he was good on 38.0 percent from deep, last season he fell to 35.7 percent and so far this year he’s all the way down to just 29.6 percent (the worst 3-point percentage of his career).
However, things could be turning around for the 9-year vet from Villanova. This month Foye is shooting 50.0 percent overall and 47.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Foye is averaging 11 points a game for his career but just 6.0 this season.
The most important aspects of the deal may be the open roster spot the Thunder have now and the $9.8 million in cap and luxury tax savings the trade created.
Several big name and high priced players are rumored to be seeking buyouts from their current teams and so could be available on the cheap for the Thunder to add to their roster for the playoffs.
Tonight’s game is set for a 7:10 tipoff and can be seen on Fox Sports Oklahoma. We’ll have full coverage here on the website with updates on our Twitter feed page from today’s shoot-around and from pre-game warmups and meetings with coaches.