Thunder Ready to Get Back on Winning Track

Only one team in the NBA has lost fewer games after a loss than the Thunder. The Chicago Bulls were 16-4 this season in bounce back games while Oklahoma City was 20-6 in the regular season. Add a couple games in the playoffs, the first win of the Denver series (bouncing back from the loss to Milwaukee) and the series clinching win in game five the Thunder now stand 22-6 in games following a loss.

“We’re a team with a lot of pride,” Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha explained as one reason for the sterling bounce-back record. “Losing in front of our home crowd and everything we just want to bounce back and display better basketball.”

The Thunder have not lost consecutive home games since early November and those losses to Utah on Halloween night and Boston on November 7 were separated by a west coast road trip.

“We never want to lose two in a row,” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. “Especially on our home floor. We’ve been good in bounce back games, but it is a little different in the playoffs as far as intensity and the level of play. I know we’re going to play harder and hopefully the result is a little better.”

Thunder players and coaches know what needs to be done against the Grizzlies, it’s a matter now of getting the job done.

“On defense we have to help each other more,” Sefolosha told reporters. “Close down the paint. They got way too many points in the paint. They were able to get to their sweet spots and do what they like to do too easily so we’re gonna have to take that away.”

Sefolosha admitted the Grizzlies didn’t do anything he and his teammates weren’t expecting. “They didn’t get away from their game and that’s one thing we want to do, just make them do stuff they’re not used to doing and make them take tougher shots.”

Defense is all about energy, effort and hustle, ingredients Thunder players and coaches admit were lacking Sunday, but should be available in big quantities tonight.

“Even before Game 1 our practices were great, our energy was good, we seemed to be locked in, but we just didn’t transfer it over (to the game),” Durant said. “Yesterday we had a good practice, a physical, tough practice and we got better.”

Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks thinks his players had more energy flowing than even they admit, but it wasn’t channeled the right way.

“It wasn’t always good energy, we were attacking when the attacks weren’t there, we were holding onto our man on the weakside when we should have been helping. So I thought we had energy it just wasn’t in the right places. Hopefully tonight we not only play with energy but with intelligent energy.”

Brooks fully believes the problems that cropped up Sunday can be and, he hopes, have been fixed.

“Absolutely, we knew going into this series that Memphis was a good team and they didn’t surprise us, but everything we’ve worked on the last day and a half are things that we need to get better at and we hope to see some success tonight.”

Of course other teams with home-court advantage in the second round have gone down in game one too. The Bulls beaten by Atlanta and the Lakers knocked off by Dallas. Games that have not gone unnoticed.

“As a fan and as a coach in this league I love May basketball,” said Brooks. “Everybody is fighting their hearts out to play in June and not too many teams, not too many players get to do that. You have to fight every game and every series. There’s such good parity in this league you can have home court and then lose it in one game then try to fight to get it back. That’s what we’re all trying to do to fight for that next win.”

Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. and Thunder fans are encouraged to get to Oklahoma City Arena early because extra security measures will be in place as mandated by the NBA.

You can watch all the action on TNT or listen to the game on the Thunder Radio Network.