Improve defensively. Make more shots. Trim turnovers. Those are areas the Thunder must improve to significantly improve on last year’s 23-win season.
But for fans who don’t dissect box scores, or stat sheets, there’s an easier barometer to monitor progress of a young team some are labeling a team on the rise: Home-court record. Oklahoma City finished 15-26 last season at the Ford Center. Post a winning record at home and the Thunder moves closer to playoff contention. Post another losing record in the Ford Center and there’s still a ways to go. "Protecting home court is a big thing,” said Nick Collison. "That would be a big step for us.” It won’t be easy, especially early. The Thunder, which opens the season at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home against Sacramento, faces playoff teams in 10 of its first 15 home games. Last year’s disastrous 3-29 start included a 1-12 start at home. But the Thunder was 14-14 at home the final four months, sparking a 20-30 finish. Ford Center wins over playoff teams San Antonio, Portland, Dallas, Utah, Philadelphia and Detroit — and close calls against the Nuggets (twice), Suns, Hornets, Spurs and Rockets — were signs a young team played with more confidence at home. But to take the next step, some of those close calls need to be wins. Portland, a team often compared to OKC, needed three seasons to significantly improve its home record.