GAME 1 PREVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
May 5th, 2014
The Start of a New Series

It was more than a challenge, it was an outright dogfight, but the Thunder battled past Memphis and into the second round of the Playoffs.

With just 48 hours in between its 120-109 home win in Game 7 over the Grizzlies and its Game 1 contest at Chesapeake Energy Arena against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Thunder knows it will have to compress what it would normally try to get accomplished between series into a finite amount of time. While the Thunder’s scouts and coaches have been preparing for the Clippers, it is crucial for Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club to recover physically and mentally, while also switching gears in its focus onto the next series.

“Rest is important,” Brooks explained. “You have to not only rest the body but the mind. Today we’re just going to go over the game plan and some of the personnel and some of the things we want to get accomplished going into the first game.”

“It’s physically taking care of your body and making sure you restore and regenerate the energy necessary to play in the Playoffs,” veteran guard Derek Fisher said. “From there, you just have to be ready to play. It’s a tough transition to basically play the same team for two weeks, then all the sudden in 48 hours, you have a new team that you play. We have to be ready to make the adjustments to the next opponent.”

As for those adjustments that Fisher mentioned, the Thunder did get in some mental work on Sunday afternoon after allowing time for rest and recovery in the morning. It will be a remarkable turnaround for the Thunder, going from playing against the Grizzlies, one of the lowest scoring and most defensive-minded teams in the NBA, to facing the high-paced, transition oriented Clippers squad.

On defense, the Thunder knows first and foremost it will have to prevent Chris Paul from getting into the lane and dishing to shooters or the Clippers’ bigs who attack the rim. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan thrive off of dunks, particularly in transition, so it will be up to all five Thunder players to get back in transition, then play physically to keep the Clippers’ away from the rim.

“We know that they’re a very good basketball team,” Brooks said. “They’re deep, they have an outstanding point guard and Blake (Griffin) has really taken his game to another level.”

“They score the basketball,” Brooks said. “They have great three-point shooters. They can run as well as any team in this league. Their 5’s get up and down the court. We definitely have to be locked in defensively on all five guys on every possession.”

On offense, the Thunder knows that opportunities will come to everyone on the floor thanks to rebounding and pushing tempo in transition. If there’s nothing there early in the shot clock, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will help the Thunder generate high percentage shots by getting into the lane, attacking the rim and kicking out to open shooters. By playing within their roles, the Thunder hopes to share the ball with one another so that everyone feels confident.

“We just have to keep the game as simple as possible,” Durant said. “Pass and kick, get to the rim, get to the free throw line and knock down open shots. When our shot isn’t going, we can still rely on getting to the rim and Coach drawing up some great plays for us to get some easy baskets.”

As Durant and Brooks explained on Sunday, its incredible battle with the Grizzlies showed just how potent it can be when it simply plays Thunder Basketball, like it showed throughout the regular season. By trusting in one another, fighting as a collective unit and staying focused for all 48 minutes, the Thunder wants to value every single possession, and is ready to do so in Game 1 on Monday.

“Our guys are excited,” Brooks said. “We know we have a big challenge ahead of us. Like we enter every series, you have to win four and the first game is always one where you want to play well, like all the games.”