Thunder Determined To Make Maximum Effort Tonight

Oklahoma City Thunder players and coaches are confident the team will get off to a much better start tonight against the Dallas Mavericks than they did in Saturday’s Game 3.

“We’ll be fine,” Thunder guard James Harden assured reporters after today’s shoot-around. “We just have to come out with more energy. Just play hard.”

Harden doesn’t feel any desperation among his teammates just because the Thunder now trails in the series, “No we’ve been 1-2, it was that way against Memphis on the road so it’s no big deal and we’re at home. We just have to go out and win one at home.”

To get that accomplished Thunder players and coaches know some things will need to change.

“We have to do everything a little bit better. We don’t have to be perfect, but the effort has to be much better,” said Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks. “Dallas hit us and knocked us off of our offense. It took us a while to understand that, but once we did we played much better. We took some bad shots and didn’t have enough ball movement.”

Both Harden and Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant spent much of Game 3 trying to fight through double teams. Durant believes he knows what he has to do to counteract that.

“Plain and simple I have to be more aggressive, be stronger with my catches and my drives.”

Harden answered in a similar way, “We have to attack, still play our game. We have to find the person that’s open. If they’re double-teaming us then obviously someone else is open so we just have to find that person.”

“Part of our issue last game was that we were surrounding the basketball,” Brooks said. “When teams trap you have to get away from the ball, you have to pass out of the trap, but our spacing wasn’t as good. We worked on that today and hopefully we’ll have better spacing tonight.”

Much attention has been paid to the Thunder’s lack of scoring punch in the first quarter of these first three games against Dallas, low-lighted by just a dozen points on the board after the first 12 minutes Saturday. Some of the offensive problems can be traced back to the defensive end where stops weren’t being made to then spur the offense.

“Giving up 27 points in the first quarter on our home floor is not what we want,” Brooks acknowledged. “Defense has always been our foundation. We have to get stops first. We have to make sure we defend and that will allow us to get easier shots on offense.”

As Durant is doubled more and more Brooks told reporters he may be used as a decoy to free up others on the floor. “He demands a lot of attention (from defenders) and those double teams are out so far down the court and now you’re playing four on three basketball in the half court and that’s part of Kevin’s job is to also help his teammates score.”

Brooks said he plans no drastic changes.

“We just have to play better.”

Oklahoma City usually does coming off a loss. The Thunder is 5-0 after a loss in the playoffs and 26-6 overall this season after losing a game. OKC has not lost back-to-back home games all season. Consecutive home defeats in late October and early November were separated by a road win.

Kevin Durant summed up he and his teammates feelings about bouncing back.

“We just hate to lose.”

Don’t we all. 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.