GAME PREVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
May 14th, 2013
GAME 5: Thunder vs. Grizzlies

Monday night’s overtime loss was tough, but the Thunder doesn’t shy away from adversity.

Trailing 3-1 in its second round series to the Memphis Grizzlies is a difficult proposition, but with a home game at Chesapeake Energy Arena on deck for Wednesday night, the Thunder realizes is that all it takes is a one possession and one game at approach to extend the series and put the pressure back on Memphis. Over the past five seasons, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team has faced difficult challenges, including a 2-0 deficit in last season’s Western Conference Finals. As a team and organization, the Thunder doesn’t blink in those situations, but rather comes together to fight that much harder.

“Two things I’ve always known about our team is that it’s never easy and that we never quit,” Brooks said. “I expect that same effort that we’ve had all four games to be the same tomorrow night. We did a lot of good things last night. We just didn’t finish the game. Every game has come down to the last two or three minutes. Hopefully we can do a better job of closing out the game.”

Brooks has been at the helm with the Thunder from its first season in Oklahoma City when it went 23-59 and has guided the team through every up-and-down since then. The young coach had a ten-year NBA career himself and won an NBA title with the Houston Rockets in 1994, so he understands quite a bit about what happens when good teams are challenged and pushed to the limit.

“You always find yourself and who you are,” Brooks said. “We have the ability to find ourselves tomorrow night. We want to play in Memphis. I know our guys. I’ve been with them quite a bit. They’re looking forward to this game.”

If the Thunder can manage to take Game Five at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday, it will have the opportunity to head back to Memphis for a Friday night showdown in Game Six. The core of Brooks’ team is made of players who look at the current situation not as negative, but as an incredible opportunity to rise together and push themselves to even greater heights. That can only start, however, with an excellent effort in Game Five. As a result, that is where the team’s full focus lays.

“We’re going to keep fighting,” Brooks said. “We’re going to keep competing. All we’re worried about is winning one game. It’s a great place to play. The energy in our crowd hopefully can get us over that hump. We know that all we’re focused on is if we win one game.”

With an All-Star leader in Kevin Durant and savvy veterans like Nick Collison, Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins to support young, aggressive players like Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson, the Thunder knows it has enough in its locker room to compete at a high level. When each man looks to one another, they have full trust and faith in one another’s ability to make a play that can impact winning. The challenge to fight back in the series is at the Thunder’s doorstep, and Brooks’ team is ready to face it head on.

“This team, I still believe in them,” Brooks said. “I believe in how they work and how they compete with each other. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

"We have the talent, we have the teamwork, we have the effort and the energy to do it,” Brooks continued. “We have enough to compete and we still expect to win. That’s the mindset of our guys.”