Tough Loss, Sure, But 'It's a Long Series'
Yes, the San Antonio Spurs struck first, defeating the Thunder 101-98 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday night. And yes it hurt; the look on the faces of Head Coach Scott Brooks and his players revealed that story.
But the Thunder is quick to point out that a series winner is the first team to win four games. The Thunder has consistently relayed that message since the NBA Playoffs began in late April. It refuses to get too high after a victory, it surely isn’t going to get too low after a defeat.
“It’s tough,” forward Kevin Durant said following the game, but we can’t hang our heads, man. It’s a long series. We have to keep playing, try to get Game 2.”
Durant, joined as usual on the post-game podium with guard Russell Westbrook, talked about all the things the Thunder did right in building a 71-62 lead heading into the final 12 minutes: blocking shots at the rim, playing solid team defense, using “active hands” to generate 11 steals and ignite its potent fast break, and moving the ball.
"We just got to keep doing it for 48 minutes," he said.
The Thunder will study the game film on Monday, and then address in practice the areas indentified by Brooks and his staff as needing adjustments heading into Game 2 Tuesday night.
“We’ll be all right,” Westbrook said.
Durant gave nearly the same answer a question later, saying: “We’ll be fine.”
“It was a hard-fought ballgame,” Brooks said. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I thought our guys competed. I thought both teams played as hard as they can. We knew that going into the game, we knew both teams are going to play with a lot of energy and effort.”
This game was decided in the fourth quarter. The Spurs opened the period with an 11-2 run to tie the game at 73-73 and get the crowd on its feet. They would score 39 in the quarter – 23 more than they scored in the third period.
Yet still the Thunder would stay within striking distance. Even when the Spurs went up 94-84 with 1:57 to play, the Thunder continued its fight and closed to within five on a defensive stop and drive by Westbrook with 1:21 to play.
"They're playing the best basketball in the league and we were right there," Brooks said.
“That was not a good finishing quarter. There’s no question,” he said. “We pride ourselves on defense, and giving up over 30 points in the fourth quarter home or on the road doesn’t matter, we should not give up 30 points. That’s not how we play.”