Thunder Will Strive for Every Advantage in Game 3

Hustle. It’s something Thunder players take pride in, something they’ve done all season long and something that made a big difference in Game 2. According to Mavericks Head Coach Rick Carlisle the Thunder grabbed 23 loose balls and turned them into 32 points. Those are hustle plays. The Mavs meanwhile got to 17 loose balls and managed only 13 points off those recoveries.

“We played very aggressive in Game 2 and our long, athletic players have been able to create turnovers and get to loose balls,” said Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks after today’s shoot-around session. “Our guys have the will to compete and to play hard. They do a great job of leaving it all on the floor and they do it on a consistent level.”

The Thunder offense has also created big problems for the Mavericks scoring 112 and 106 points in the first two games. In Game 2 the Thunder hit 55.7% of its shots, matching the second best shooting percentage allowed by the Mavs all season.

The Thunder scoring average so far against Dallas (109 ppg) is 12 points more than the Mavericks allowed in any single game against either the Lakers or the Trail Blazers.

“Our offense is always about spacing,” said Brooks. “When we play on top of each other we’re very average. But when we get guys to the corner and guys to their spots and we run our sets and set great screens we definitely have a good offensive game. And our guys play hard.”

The Thunder played better against Mavs star Dirk Nowitski, limiting his trips to the foul line and forcing him off his sweet spots.

“We did a great job of being aware of where he was on the floor,” Thunder defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha told reporters. “We just tried to deny him the ball where he likes to get it, we made him get his touches a little further out so I thought that was the key.”

“I thought our guys did a very good job on him,” agreed Brooks. “I don’t know how much better we can do than we did in Game 2, but our guys have to come out with the same type of toughness and aggressiveness on him because you can’t let up.”

Mavs guards Jason Terry and J.J. Barea were also held in check and controlled Thursday night in Dallas after both had big nights in Game 1.

“You have to attack him,” Sefolosha answered in how you have to guard Terry. “He’s the type of player that after he gets the ball in his hands he’s usually going to do good things with it so you try to stay aggressive on him and deny him the ball as much as you can. Deny him the passes and deny him the touches.”

Sefolosha said although he and his teammates feel good about getting a win in Big D they are by no means satisfied with the way they played.

“We worked on a lot of little details,” he said. "Sure we won the game but there are a lot of things we can improve on so we worked on those things.”

After earning a win in Dallas, Oklahoma City now has taken home court advantage away from the Mavs. With a maximum five games left, three of the five would be played inside Oklahoma City Arena. The first two are tonight and Monday.

“It’s going to be really important for us if we can win tonight and then the next game,” Sefolosha admitted. “We’re just going to take it a game at a time and play the right way that should give us a good chance to win those games.”

Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. inside Oklahoma City Arena. You can watch all the action on ESPN or listen in on the Thunder Radio Network.

NOTES:
• Oklahoma City is 6-1 at home in the playoffs. Dallas has won three straight playoff road games.
• Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is one of just five players in NBA history to record 4,000 points, 1,500 assists and 1,000 rebounds in the first three years of their careers. Westbrook is also one of five players in NBA history to score a triple-double in a Game 7. He is the only player on both those lists.