Thunder Focused on Game 4 Game Plan
DALLAS -- In Thursday night’s 95-79 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3, the Thunder swarmed on defense, often trapping and double teaming Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, then over playing passing lanes to force 16 Dallas turnovers. On offense, the Thunder moved the ball and spread the court to get everyone involved.
From a game plan standpoint, the Thunder executed Head Coach Scott Brooks’ goals to a tee, and players like Kevin Durant are completely intent on focusing just as hard on that aspect of the game for Game 4 Saturday night.
“Our coaches do a great job of preparing us,” Durant said. “They’ve been doing it all season. Having played these guys last year, we kind of knew the stuff they would run and things like that. I think everybody here has bought into just trying to win basketball games and we respect our coaches enough to know the plan they put in place is going to help us succeed. It’s just a matter of us going out there and trying to complete it.”
There’s a certain balance between coaches and players, as the staff attempts to put players in positions to be successful, but the players’ instincts must take over on the court. That symbiotic relationship is something that can take a young team some time to develop, but with the Thunder, that process has been aided by the leadership of players like Durant and Russell Westbrook. As veteran and team-first player Kendrick Perkins noted, when team leaders buy into the coach’s game plan, the rest of the team follows suit.
“It’s very important, it works both ways. I feel like the teams that win, they buy into the coach’s system,” Perkins said. “That’s how we have to get over the hill. I know Kevin and Russ believe in what coach Brooks has to say, including myself, and everybody else is going to follow. You always look at your franchise guys and see how they’re going and you follow their lead.”
While Brooks’ plan worked well on Thursday night, the fourth-year head coach always deflects praise, preferring to give his players credit for their efforts on the court. The Thunder was once again on the practice floor this afternoon, giving the team an opportunity to both watch film and work through some kinks heading into Game 4. Not only do the Thunder players try their best to assess their deficiencies, they try to replicate and make a habit of things they did well.
“I have good players to coach and guys that want to be coached,” Brooks said. “It’s good, but they do a good job of competing. That’s one of the strengths of our team. … They don’t make excuses, they come out and do their job every night.”
An essential aspect to this playoff series has been the Thunder’s ability to maintain a high level of focus and determination to execute for the course of 48 minutes. Games 1 and 2 were one-possession games, and the Thunder used a methodical, tactical effort in Game 3 to get the win. Despite a 3-0 series lead, both Durant and Westbrook said Thursday night that the team hasn’t accomplished anything yet, and the series isn’t over until, as Perkins says, the Thunder gets one more win.
“We’re trying to win every game that we play,” Perkins said. “We’re trying not to look ahead, just trying to take it one game at a time. They’re right, we haven’t done anything yet. It’s not one of our goals just trying to advance out of the first round. We have bigger goals than that so we’re just taking it one game at a time and we’ll just keep getting better every day and keep pushing.”
Westbrook declared before Thursday’s game that the Thunder viewed the series as 0-0 because all his team did was hold serve by winning the first two games at Chesapeake Energy Arena. In the interview room on Thursday night, Westbrook said the Thunder now approaches the series as 1-0 and that it is up to the Thunder to win another game tonight. Durant echoed that sentiment before Friday’s practice.
“We have to really focus on trying to come out here and capitalize the way we did last game and improve on what we did,” Durant said. “It is 1-0 for us and we’ll just try to take it a quarter at a time and a possession at a time. We’ll see what happens.”