GAME PREVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
May 1st, 2013
GAME 5: Thunder vs Rockets

The Thunder is back at Chesapeake Energy Arena and has only one focus – to do everything in its power to get a win tonight.

Up 3-1 in its first round series against the Houston Rockets, the Thunder has an opportunity to close out the series and advance to the Western Conference semi-finals. It will take a full team effort as Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club looks to play with energy, intensity and togetherness in front of its home crowd.

“We want to take care of business tonight,” Brooks said. “It’s always been a trademark with our team of playing hard, tough basketball.”

One area where the Thunder wants to improve upon from Game 4 is the way it opens and closes quarters. The Rockets got off to 13-4 and 8-0 starts to begin the first and second halves, shifting the momentum in those periods. Tonight in Game 5, the Thunder wants to flip the script in that regard, bursting out of the gates with energy and then putting its foot down to end every quarter. For a young team yet one that has veteran leaders like Kevin Durant, the Thunder expects to be strong to start and end quarters.

“That’s what veteran teams do,” Durant said. “That’s what championship-caliber teams do. They finish quarters well and start quarters well. That’s a challenge, especially in the league and especially in the Playoffs. We have to do it and we’re confident that we can do so. We just have to put it out on the floor.”

Perhaps more important than the Thunder making the most of the opening and closing minutes, it is essential that the Thunder approaches each minute and each possession with the right mindset. There will be ups and downs throughout the course of the game but also the Playoffs. The key for the Thunder is to maintain the same level of communication and concentration when things are going well as when the team faces adversity.

“We have to maintain a level of consistency even when things are going bad,” Brooks said. “We’ll stick with our principles and just keep it simple on offense and keep it simple on defense.”

After two games on the road in Houston, which the Thunder split with the Rockets, Brooks’ squad is excited about the prospect of playing in Oklahoma City in front of its own fans. By being tied on a string defensively and unselfish on the offensive end, the Thunder wants to play with intensity for 48 minutes. Brooks’ team, along with the fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena, will feed off of one another’s passion for four full quarters in hopes of getting that fourth, series-clinching win.

“We have a special group of fans that come out and bring it every night,” Brooks said. “We’re both fortunate. They have a great group of guys to cheer for and we have a great group of fans to play for.”