As the Thunder aims to make adjustments in the final half of the season, there is one thing coach Scott Brooks says isn't likely to change.
That's the starting lineup.
“I don't see a change,” Brooks said Friday.
The Thunder is winning.
“Our record is good,” Brooks said. “We won 50 games last year, which I don't like to talk about. That's history, but it is part of what this team is. Every year has its own dynamics. But we're 27-15 right now. We're winning games.”
Mounting questions, however, surround three of the Thunder's five starters as the team enters tonight's game against New York.
Starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha's perimeter defense hasn't been as stout as a year ago, while his shooting continues to be streaky. Starting power forward Jeff Green has struggled to defend opposing big men, while also being mired in a shooting slump. And starting center Nenad Krstic might be becoming less useful offensively as Russell Westbrook continues to emerge. Krstic also is in the final year of his contract and might not return next season, which could push the Thunder to see what it has elsewhere.
Additionally, each of those three starters has a backup who has outplayed them throughout stretches this season. For Sefolosha, it's second-year man James Harden. For Green, it's been second-year forward Serge Ibaka. And for Krstic, it's been gritty glue guy Nick Collison.
Brooks, though, continues to believe in his starters.
“We want our guys that are not starting now to push our starters,” Brooks said. “We don't want it to be a gap. Not that I'm saying that there is a big gap now. But there is a gap.”
Rather than tinker with the first five, Brooks prefers to adjust playing time accordingly, which he's done this month. Green, who is averaging 37.2 minutes this season, is playing just 34 minutes per night in eight January games. Krstic is averaging 22.4 minutes this season but is down to 19.5 in January. And Sefolosha is averaging 28.9 minutes this year but has received only 24.8 this month.
“What makes good teams good is having a lot of good players,” Brooks said. “And that's what we want to continue to build, having a lot of good players that can interchange and play extended minutes when called upon.”
Aside from the team's success, a part of Brooks' hesitancy to switch the starting five stems from the potential impact it could have on a player's psyche. Brooks has repeatedly said he thinks it's important for players to go into games with a clear understanding of the rhythm and flow of his playing time.
That's also a big reason why Brooks is against changing lineups from game to game depending on matchups.
“They can prepare themselves mentally and they can see how the game is going,” Brooks said of his current reserves.
THUNDER VS. KNICKS
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Oklahoma City Arena.
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722)
Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, 640 AM
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
* The Knicks beat the Thunder, 112-98, on Dec. 22 inside Madison Square Garden.
* New York ranks second in scoring at 107.7 points per game, just 0.25 points behind Denver.
* The Thunder is 18-3 when it out-rebounds its opponent. The Knicks rank 27th in rebounding differential at minus-3.54 per game.
Note: Stats and records are through Thursday's games.