GAME PREVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
April 27th, 2013
GAME 3: Thunder vs Rockets

HOUSTON – Regardless of which players are on the court, the mindset of the Thunder never changes.

The court is still 94 feet long and 50 feet wide and the basket is ten feet high and even though All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook will miss tonight’s Game Three with a knee injury, the Thunder is still operating by its same principles. Reggie Jackson will be the team’s starting point guard tonight, but just like every other night, it will take a full-team effort for Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team to put itself in a position to win. As a unit, no matter which five players are on the floor, the Thunder has confidence in itself.

“It’s just basketball,” Jackson said. “This team is one of the most close-knit teams in the league. We’re ready to take this on, ready for this challenge and we’re going to try to get it done collectively.”

The challenge specifically is the team’s attempt to go up 3-0 in its first round NBA Playoff series against the Houston Rockets after the team won the first two games at home at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

This is now the ninth playoff series the Thunder has played in since coming to Oklahoma City. Brooks and his coaching staff, along with the core group of players, understands the fact that whether its in-game or between games, the Playoffs are all about making adjustments and taking advantage of matchups.

“You have to make adjustments throughout the years, throughout the games,” Brooks said. “You have to be ready to adjust and make quick decisions. I think our guys are ready to do that.”

As the team digested Games One and Two over the past three days, it identified a few key areas where it must make improvements in order to get another victory. Leaders like Kevin Durant are in charge of making sure the team’s mentality is in the right spot heading into each game, but also problem-solving on the court in conjunction with the coaching staff. The Thunder won convincingly in Game One, but the Rockets made Game Two a much closer call because of a lineup change and a zone defense. Both of those will be areas the Thunder must address tonight.

“We’ve been here before and every game is different,” Durant said. “From the first and second game there’s a big difference. They switched a lot of things up. From the second to third game we have to try to adjust to what they’ve done and see how we can offset it. Our coaches do a great job of putting us in position to succeed on the basketball court, so we just have to go out there and execute the game plan.”

Veterans like Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Derek Fisher are also a critical support system for the young core of the roster led by Durant. Their Playoff experience and savvy can help the Thunder take a possession-by-possession approach and that steadiness, composure and poise are all real assets that can make an impact. There’s no formula for success each night, and invariably Game Three will have a much different dynamic than Game Two.

“Just one game at a time in terms of what’s needed,” Fisher said. “I just think that’s so important for our team to understand. Every night is going to be different and the way you need to play in order to win each night in the playoffs is different. We don’t have to go in feeling like we need a prescription for how the game is going to go.”

Above all, the Thunder is geared up to go out and play. After two days of practice and Saturday morning’s shoot-around, the team is chomping at the bit to get on the court and take on the Rockets.

Each game, quarter and possession is a challenge and one that the team will take on with collective intensity and focus. Brooks and his staff will look to everyone to contribute in some way, whether it be Durant, Jackson, Fisher or Kevin Martin or even another one of the great options the team has, everyone is confident that their teammates will step up and perform at a high level.

“We’re excited to get out there and play Game Three tonight,” Martin said. “We’ve made some adjustments and we’re ready to go.”