Thunder Mentally Prepared for Game 5 Challenge

Thunder forward Nick Collison, like always, took extra jumpers after practice, but then went and studied extra film for a while before coming out to address the media. Despite sitting at 3-1 in this series, Thunder players like Collison realize that it hasn’t accomplished anything yet, and that tonight’s Game 5 will be its biggest challenge yet.

Head Coach Scott Brooks said that his team is well aware of the type of effort the talented, battle-tested Los Angeles Lakers will put forth tonight, and that his team needs to give its best tonight in order to get a win and close out this Round 2 series.

“It’s definitely understood, but we’ve talked about it all series long. It’s the first to four,” Brooks said. “It’s not over until you get four wins.”

Brooks referenced Game 5 in Dallas last year, when the Thunder put up a valiant effort before falling short to the eventual NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. Brooks and Collison both expect the Lakers to play with a win-or-go-home attitude, which the Thunder will have to match.

Over the past two weeks, Collison has repeatedly mentioned the Playoff experience the Thunder has built over the past three seasons, and that now in its sixth Playoff series since the organization arrived in Oklahoma City, the Thunder understands the tempo, style and force of Playoff basketball. “I think the experience lets us know how tough all these games are and how long all the games are,” Collison said. “No matter what is happening in the game, I think we know we always have a shot and we also know we have a chance to blow it if we’re in the lead. In the individual games that’s helped us, and then also how it relates to a series, we know how difficult each win is and how tough it is to close a team out. We’ll have to bring everything we have and play as well as we can and hopefully get a win.”

While Brooks and his staff try to put the Thunder players in positions to make winning basketball plays, it’s also up to the players themselves to exhibit the same focus and hustle it showed in the fourth quarter of Game 4 throughout the game tonight. Whether it was Kendrick Perkins boxing out to make defensive rebounds or Russell Westbrook beating two men to a crucial offensive board, the Thunder made plays in the last eight minutes of Saturday night’s game. Brooks says he wants that possession-by-possession concentration to carry over to tonight. “I don’t think we’re going to change our focus or our mentality,” Brooks said. “It’s always been to take care of the game tonight and not worry about anything else. Play in the moment. Definitely when you’re in the other situation, it’s either you win or you go home. I’m sure they’re going to come out and give us their best shot. They have experience, they have a championship background. Nobody wants to end their season tonight. We’re going to go out and play our game. Hopefully we execute and play with great effort. We know our crowd is going to be behind us. We’re going to have to make them miss shots.”

The Thunder’s 3-1 lead in the series has come by way of a 29-point win, a two-point victory and Saturday night’s 103-100 come-from-behind defeat of the Lakers. As such, the Thunder realizes that this series has, and will continue to be, an extremely difficult battle. No lead is safe and every possession counts, which are two philosophies Collison says will be top of mind come 8:30pm tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“We’re in the middle of a tough series,” Collison said. “We’ve had plenty of games go down to the wire, so I think we’re just ready for another tough, physical game. We know we have an opportunity to close out the series, but you can’t do that unless you play well. So I think our mindset is just to go into the game ready to go from the first jump ball and try to play as well as we can and see what happens.”