Before the start of Monday night's 90-minute practice, Thunder coach Scott Brooks admitted he was concerned about the energy level of his All-Star players.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden returned from the All-Star festivities in Los Angeles, and also returned to practice.
“I was waiting for them to see how they would be in warm-ups, but they had energy,” Brooks said. “They were ready to practice. I could have told them to sit out a few drills, but they wouldn't have listened. They were ready to go. I was a little concerned, but I'm not now.”
Following a one-week break from regular-season action, the Thunder (35-19) returns against the Los Angeles Clippers (21-35) tonight at 7 inside Oklahoma City Arena, where the Thunder has yet to beat the Clippers (0-3).
When the teams met earlier this season on Nov. 3, the Clippers dominated, outscoring the Thunder in every quarter while shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 50 percent (8 for 16) from 3-point range in a 107-92 rout.
“That night wasn't a good night for us,” Brooks said. “They were desperate, they played hard and we had no answers for them.”
LA applied the drubbing without the services of starting guard Baron Davis, who started the season out of shape and has since returned with far more fervor.
That night also was one of only 10 games this season when rookie sensation Blake Griffin did not finish with a double-double (18 points; nine rebounds).
It wound up being the only victory in the first 14 games for the Clippers, who have gone 20-22 since their 1-13 start.
“They've changed their whole season around,” Thunder veteran forward Nick Collison said. “You can almost throw that (first) game out the window. They'll be a difficult team to play. They have a lot of athleticism.”
The Thunder also has changed since its 3-3 start.
“We're a lot better now,” OKC forward Jeff Green said. “We had our mental lapses around that portion of the season.”
Brooks agreed with Green and added, “We're a much better team, but I think they are, too.”