May 13th, 2014
Bounce Back Mentality

The Thunder has a process, and when it comes to transitioning from one game to the next, it sticks to its principles by trusting in its work.

In the film room and on the practice floor at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club puts in the time and mental energy to be completely prepared for the challenges that lay ahead. Tonight, the Thunder squares off at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Game 5 against the Los Angeles Clippers, with the series tied at 2-2. Despite a tough fourth quarter in Game 4 in Los Angeles, the Thunder is confident that has put in the right type of work over the past 48 hours to execute for 48 minutes.

“It just shows the character of your team, if you’re ready to bounce back,” Perkins said. “You just have to look forward. We can’t get too down on a loss. Just have to move forward.”

While much of what Thunder players like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Caron Butler spoke about on Monday was that there was a letdown in energy and focus in the fourth quarter of Game 4, there are also some x’s and o’s the Thunder can execute better on in Game 5, depending on what the Clippers throw on the floor.

Whether it be solving pick-and-roll coverages or figuring how to best space the floor when the Clippers double team Durant or Westbrook, the Thunder works together as a unit to take care of anything that pops up both throughout the game and between games.

“We watch film we see what we need to get better at, and go out and do it,” Perkins said. “It’s not about talking about it anymore, it’s about going out and doing it. Now you get to bounce back. We’re at home. It should be a fun game.”

For the Thunder, it will start on the defensive end in Game 5. The team’s internal goal in general is to hold teams under 100 points in addition to keeping teams to under 42 percent shooting. In Game 4, the Thunder held the Clippers to just 35 percent shooting through three quarters thanks to excellent work in transition defense, forcing Los Angeles to execute for the entirety of the 24-second shot clock.

In order to continually get the stops that are the lifeblood of the Thunder’s offense, defensive leaders like Kendrick Perkins said that the Thunder must communicate, play with force and be together at all times.

“All five guys who are on the court have to be tied on a string and we have to be able to cover for each other,” Perkins said.

On offense, the Thunder knows that if it spaces the floor, plays with the right tempo and shares the ball, it can find seams and open shots through the flow of ball and player movement. Dynamic playmakers like Durant and Westbrook help others get open looks, while Reggie Jackson’s attacking nature can also pierce holes in the Clippers defense.

Shooters like Butler, Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka must be ready for opportunities to catch and shoot, in addition to cut to the basket when the Clippers double team. If the Thunder can play to its strengths on both ends of the floor for all four quarters tonight, it will give itself a great chance to take a critical 3-2 lead in this Western Conference Semifinals series.

“It’s just staying locked in and focused on the defensive end and moving the basketball,” Durant said. “We’re just trying to keep the game as simple as possible and playing hard will make up for a lot.”