Thunder Pumped for NBA Playoff Basketball

Rumble’s drum will be booming, Thunder Alley will be jam packed and fans from all over Oklahoma will be coming to Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight for Game One of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. When the Thunder takes on the Dallas Mavericks tonight, the team and community will feel the special buzz in the air, knowing that for the third straight year Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team’s hard work earned a postseason berth.

“The playoffs are going to be exciting,” Brooks said. “I’m sure the t-shirts will be out. That’s a big topic of conversation in my house. It’s exciting. We have a good crowd. The players are ready. We had a couple of good days of preparation and now it’s just time to play with instincts, play with force, play with effort, play together and go out there and enjoy the game that we all love.”

While the intensity gets ratcheted up in every NBA city come May and June, there’s something about the crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena and the community in Oklahoma City brings out the verve in everyone. Even for a player like Kendrick Perkins, who won an NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics, one of the league’s most storied franchises, the way the region gets into the Playoff spirit is remarkable. The center and defensive anchor even said that he needs to take a Martin Lawrence, Bad Boys-style breather sometimes in order to not get caught up in the fervor.

“You’re always pumped up for the playoffs, but out here in OKC it’s a different type of atmosphere,” Perkins said. “When I got here last year and the playoffs started, I was like, ‘Wow’, even after being in Boston. You always look forward to it, but you don’t want to get too pumped up because you don’t want to get gassed out early. At the same time you have to ‘Woosah’ a little bit and relax.”

Being able to relax and just play basketball is going to be a key for the Thunder, who will of course have a healthy respect for its opponent and the challenges it presents while also playing with a confidence and sureness about its own game. Players like Perkins and Derek Fisher have the most documented postseason experience on the team, but even young guys like Russell Westbrook have four playoff series under their belts, so they are very sure of themselves and how they want to play.

“I think we’re very confident, especially defensively,” Westbrook said. “I think that’s the biggest key in the playoffs. We’re confident on the defensive end and the offense will take care of itself.”

With that steadiness and self-awareness comes the realization that the NBA Playoffs are a special time of year because it is an earned and difficult task to even make it to the postseason. Some players in all sports make the playoffs their first few years in the league, and then never get the opportunity to play in a Playoff series again. As a result, the Thunder wants to grasp this opportunity by the horns and make the most of it.

“There are no guarantees, you have to have a relatively healthy year,” Brooks said. “This is our third year in a row. Our guys have earned it. They’ve worked hard and they’re getting better as the years go by. We’re excited about it and there’s no question, the energy level is always good here, but you can sense that they’re ready to play a series.”

Once the ball tips at 8:30 pm tonight, all the outside noise, the hype and chatter won’t matter. All the players and coaches on the Thunder roster will be concerned with is how well it executes on offense and operates on the defensive end. If all goes according to plan and the Thunder hammer home its keys, the team and the fans will share a great night together at one of the most raucous venues in the NBA.

“We’re very excited. It should be a fun and interesting journey for us,” Westbrook said. “I’m looking forward to getting tonight started and to get a win…. These are the best fans in all of sports. They do a great job of keeping you confident.”