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GAME PREVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
April 25th, 2013
GAME 3: Thunder vs Rockets

The gift of having a group of players that are committed to winning and team success over everything else is that they work together to problem solve.

Both during games and at practice in film sessions, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club talks through different scenarios, matchups and strategic decisions in order to find the best way to execute on both ends of the floor. In Wednesday night’s Game Two of the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs against the Houston Rockets the Thunder faced a brand new starting lineup from Houston in addition to a zone defense. While both were challenges, the Thunder managed to work through it all together. When looking back at the tape on Thursday, Brooks and company were pleased to go up 2-0 in the series, but knows there are areas it can continue to improve.

“There are some things that we did well and some things we did not do so well,” Brooks said. “We won the game so we’re happy with that. We’re not saying we’re satisfied, but we’re happy. We did a lot of good things, but we also have to understand that they’re really good.”

It wasn’t always perfect basketball but the Thunder absorbed a tough punch from Houston’s 21-2 fourth quarter run and countered with its own 13-2 burst to snatch control of the game. With three minutes left the Thunder trailed by four and was processing how to best attack the Rockets’ zone and also contend with the plethora of Houston three-point shooters. By taking a collective breath and communicating with one another, the Thunder managed to out-last the Rockets with good ball movement and tight defensive pressure.

“For us, it’s all about the way we were going to finish the game,” guard Thabo Sefolosha said. “They threw a lot of different things at us. I think we did a good job of sticking to it, getting stops when it mattered and making shots when it mattered.”

After practice on Thursday, Sefolosha said that despite the win his team needs to come into Game Three in Houston with a tough mindset and make a few adjustments on the defensive end. The team defense once again held the Rockets to less than 40 percent shooting from the floor, but also allowed 18 offensive rebounds. While forcing such a high percentage of missed shots always results in more opportunities for second chances for opponents, the Thunder still wants to be sharp in terms of boxing out and being strong on the defensive glass.

“Everybody has been taught to box out, there are a couple of different ways,” Brooks said. “You just have to get it done… You have to box out and get it done and we have to do a better job going into Game Three.”

Despite there being long rebounds off of the record-setting number of three-point attempts that have been taken so far in this series, the Thunder knows it must put a body in front of the Rockets’ quick, shifty guards. On the other end of the floor, the Thunder will now have two days to collectively figure out the best way to attack it if Houston employs it again. Hitting big men like Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins in the middle of the zone is an essential tool the Thunder has to help create open looks all over the floor.

“We try to keep the ball moving, keep bodies moving and really try to attack the paint,” Sefolosha said. “We have to do a better job at driving the ball then kicking it out. But definitely bringing it in first.”