Thunder 'DNA' Showcased in Late-Game Rally
Scott Brooks often talks about the "DNA" of his roster, that intangible set of qualities that help make the Thunder not only a special team for fans to watch, but one to coach as well.
It explains why, when given a rare day off, the Thunder instead chooses to work. Every player on the 15-man roster shows up at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center to put up shots, and work with the assistant coaches and trainers.
It also explains how the Thunder could be down seven points with 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2, yet rally together and pull off a thrilling 77-75 victory before 18,203 in Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"I've been around four years with this group of guys," said Brooks, who heads to L.A. on Thursday with his team up 2-0 in the best-of-seven, second-round series. "One of the things they won't do, they won't quit. It's not in their DNA. They're not wired that way. If they were, they wouldn't be here.
"We're not going to win every game, but we're going to fight till the last second of every game," he added. "If we would have gotten down on ourselves with two minutes to go, the game would have been over. We would have lost by 12. We're very fortunate that we won the game, but we put ourselves in position to win."
The rally started in the huddle during a 20-second time out. The Lakers had done the near-impossible, essentially muting the Thunder faithful draped in blue-and-white T-shirts who saw their team trailing, 75-68, with 2:08 to play.
Brooks urged his guys to "keep your energy up," adding, "This game is not over."
"All I told them," he would say later, "we're down seven. We don't have to play perfect basketball, but it better be pretty close."
The huddle breaks, and the following unfolds in 128 seconds no Thunder fan will soon forget:
- 1:59: James Harden drives hard to his right to break free of the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and heads right to the rim, where he floats a left-handed finger roll over 7-footer Pau Gasol to cut the margin to 75-70. "James was big getting to the rim," Kevin Durant said.
- 1:46: Durant steals an inbounds pass attempt by Bryant to Gasol just past midcourt, collects the loose ball and races downcourt for a dunk, cutting the deficit to 75-72. "It was unconventional," Bryant said. "It was just flat-out risk defensively; jumping the passing lane to get the ball. Durant did it and got the steal."
- 1:39: On the Lakers' next possession, Russell Westbrook anticipates a pass from Steve Blake to Bryant, but the ball goes out of bounds and the referees rule Westbrook last touched the ball. But because it's in the final two minutes of the game, the play is reviewed and overturned; the ball was last touched by Bryant. Thunder ball!
- :56.1: Kendrick Perkins secures a defensive rebound and immediately fires the outlet pass to Harden near midcourt. Harden charges toward the basket and splits Lakers defenders Metta World Peace and Blake on his way to two points, pulling the Thunder within 75-74.
- :18.6: Durant, using a screen from Serge Ibaka to break free of World Peace, drives to his right and around Lakers center Andrew Bynum and pulls up near the foul lane, where he releases a 7-foot jumper over Gasol to give the Thunder its first lead, 76-75, since the 2:13 mark of the third quarter. "He is a great player and that is what great players do," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said of Durant, adding: "He had a big shot and a big steal and a great presence down the stretch for them."
- :3.3: Blake is alone in the corner on an inbounds play that was drawn up for Bryant. But his shot goes off the back of the rim and Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha grabs the rebound. Durant would add a free throw, but the Thunder rallies and heads to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 with a 2-0 series lead
"It's all about toughness," Brooks said, when asked about his team's play in the final two minutes. "We can win basketball games only one way, and that is being tough. … That toughness on the defensive end is who we are. We can't change that."