Thunder Fights to the Finish

While athleticism, raw talent and skill are all requirements for success in the NBA, the Thunder understands that many basketball games are won with intelligence and mental toughness.

Over the course of the season the Thunder has faced adversity, but by working together, communicating and being strong in both mind and spirit, it has found success. At 59-21 heading into the final two games of the regular season, the Thunder can say it gave itself a chance to win nearly every game it played and that it laid it on the line each night. In fact, of those 21 losses, the Thunder only fell by more than ten points on three occasions. By scratching and clawing, even when it just wasn’t the Thunder’s night, leaders like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have helped keep the team in every game.

“No matter what the score is, the game is never over,” Durant said. “We all feel like we could do something crazy to win the basketball game. I think that’s the fight in us… It’s a blessing to get wins in this league, it’s so hard to get wins in this league, so we’re going to fight to the end.”

The mirror image of that resilience the Thunder shows in games is that the club owns the most wins (44) by ten-or-more points this year. Putting teams away in the second half is a critical sign of maturity and confidence in team strategy. By executing in the second half, the Thunder has shown that it has the ability to process lessons from the first half and apply them in later stages of the game.

“We go back in the locker room and make adjustments,” Durant said. “Everybody has been chipping in. We need to continue to come out with a lot of energy to start the game like we’ve been doing. Then in the second half we need to pick it up even more. We’ll see how we respond tonight.”

Regardless of the circumstances, the Thunder relies on one another in the locker room, the coaching staff and their own determination to battle through the challenges. Over the past week the Thunder won three difficult road games against three teams with varying styles, in addition to winning short-handed as Kevin Martin and Kendrick Perkins sat out the Thunder’s contest at Portland. As the postseason approaches, the Thunder is playing focused basketball and is sticking to its core principles of working hard, defending and being unselfish.

“We just have a good mentality right now,” Durant said. “We’re just trying to have a focused mindset, playing together defensively and just all being on the same page. We know we’ll have some slip ups in the game, and we’ll make some mistakes, but we’ll make up for it by playing hard.”

While the execution for any team is never perfect for a full 48 minutes, the Thunder does its best to ensure that the effort and intensity put forth by the team is as close to flawless as possible. Tonight as the Thunder faces the Sacramento Kings, it has the chance, with a win, to reach the 60-win plateau for the first time since the team arrived in Oklahoma City, in addition to locking up the Western Conference’s number one seed in the Playoffs.

Those two potential feats are nice, but Head Coach Scott Brooks and his Thunder players are solely locked in on the pressures the Kings can put on a team. While Sacramento may or may not be without the services of standout center DeMarcus Cousins, Durant knows that he and his teammates will have to continue its goal of rebounding the ball well to be victorious.

“We have to do a good job on the boards, taking those guys off,” Durant said. “DeMarcus Cousins is a load down there so we have to help our bigs out keeping him out of the paint. We have to peel out to their shooters.”