Thunder Confident, Wants to Take Care of Business

There’s a distinct difference between being sure of oneself and the game plan and being overconfident, and the Thunder focuses on staying on the right side of the line. At Saturday morning’s shoot around, the Thunder as a whole seemed confident in what it wants to do on the court tonight in Game Four of its opening round NBA Playoffs matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. Head Coach Scott Brooks talked about the constant vigilance the Thunder displays and how that propels the team to be prepared for every obstacle, which at this point is trying to close out the defending champions.

“We definitely have a respect for what they do and what they’ve accomplished,” Brooks said. “We understand that they’re not going to just give us the game. We’re confident in what we do, we believe in what we do. Our guys have done a great job of putting themselves in this position, but we still have to go out and do it again. You have to play well to win an NBA game and you have to play very well to win a Playoff game on the road.”

The Thunder won two nail biters in Oklahoma City, then won 95-79 in Game Three in Dallas on Thursday night, but Brooks’ players have had an uncanny ability to stay sharp and focused on each individual game. All week players like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have talked about the series as if the first two games never happened, and that going to Dallas started an entirely new series. Serge Ibaka, who has managed the unenviable task of guarding Dirk Nowitzki well, said that the team’s focus is solely on tonight’s game, and nothing else, especially not past successes.

“The key is not thinking about Game Three,” Ibaka said. “Think about now, think about being 0-0 right now and try to get this win tonight.”

Maintaining the one game at a time approach isn’t a surprise from the Thunder, which has used that mentality all season long in order to put itself in the position to win as many games as possible. Victory isn’t guaranteed, particularly in the NBA and on the road in the Playoffs, but the Thunder will use unselfishness, dedication on defense and a collective team effort to give itself an opportunity to get one more win.

Guard Thabo Sefolosha has done a nice job of defending Jason Terry and Delonte West this series, and also knocked down a run-extending three-pointer in Game Three. All Thunder players and particularly guys like Sefolosha always play within the flow of the offense and within the framework of the team concept, and when players do that, the team is confident in how it can operate as a unit.

“We had that attitude the whole season, and I think we have to stick to it and what we’ve been doing well,” Sefolosha said. “Keep playing for one another, helping one another on the defensive end and we’ll be alright.”

It’s clear that the Thunder realizes that being up 3-0 in the series means nothing more than that they’ve won three games in a series that requires four to advance. As a result, the Thunder will go into Game Four with just as much passion, energy and intensity as it did in the first three games because a win would mean the end of the series and the opportunity to return home to Oklahoma City to prepare for a second round matchup. That reward isn’t on the minds of the Thunder, but would be a nice byproduct of a win tonight, which wouldn’t be possible if not for the hard work and focus the Thunder has displayed all series.

“Tonight we’ll just try to go hard and play our basketball,” Ibaka said. “We’ll stay focused and humble and try to finish.”