Thunder Broadcasters' Roundtable, Blog Style
QUESTION: WHAT ARE THE TOP THREE STORY LINES FOR GAME 1?
KELLY CRULL, SIDELINE REPORTER
1. Sixth man and home court advantage. It’s what the Thunder worked for all 82 games of the regular season and now it has to take advantage of it. Kevin Durant and Coach Scott Brooks both jokingly challenged the Oklahoma City crowd saying, “I’m not sure they could be any better then they were last year.”
PROVE THEM WRONG, THUNDER NATION.
2. Stopping Denver in transition. No question, this is the number one key for the Thunder against the Nuggets. The best way to slow down Denver will be for Oklahoma City to take care of the basketball. Work each shot and possession deep into the shot clock and don’t turn over the ball. Be sound fundamentally.
3. Impose your will and set the tone. Setting the tone and playing “Thunder Basketball” will be critical for the Thunder in Game 1. Forcing the Nuggets to play the Thunder's style of basketball will not only pay off tonight, but will give it an advantage in the series.
BRIAN DAVIS, TV PLAY-BY-PLAY
1. Will the Thunder play the same game it used against the Nuggets a couple of weeks ago? OKC averaged 13 turnovers in those two games -- blunting Denver's fast break attack. The Nuggets scored only eight points on the break in each game. Good shot selection helped, too. That also keeps the floor balanced, so -- make or miss -- it's much easier to get back to your spots on the defensive end.
2. Will the officials allow the big men to play? I think they will. Playoff basketball's very much about higher levels of physical intensity. Since the trade deadline, the bigs have played far more important roles for both of these teams. Kendrick Perkins has shown why opposing coaches in the East called him the NBA's best low-post defender. Nazr Mohammed may not block a ton of shots but he alters his fair share with his size and length. Nene and Kenyon Martin are playing with greater energy and enthusiasm at both ends because they're getting more chances to contribute on offense.
3. Which team will do a better job of "staying within itself?" We all know the playoffs are a big deal, but in my experience the most successful clubs are the ones that come closest to treating these games like business as usual. We talk all the time on FS Oklahoma about the Thunder's approach: Treat every day the same way. Place no more or less importance on tonight's opponent than you did the last guys you faced. Take care of your own business, and don't worry about anyone else's. Go about it any other way, and you place a lot of extra (and unnecessary) pressure on yourself.
GRANT LONG, TV ANALYST
1. The Thunder, one year later. What a difference a year makes. Since the Thunder's last playoff series defeat to the Lakers, the Thunder has used this regular season as a dress rehearsal in preparation for the 2010-11 playoffs. Well, it's now SHOWTIME! with added size and depth across the front line and more experience from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder is poised for its second go-round in the NBA Playoffs.
2. Sideline mind games. During the playoffs coaches look for all kinds of advantages to get a leg up on the opponent. With that said, the Thunder-Nuggets series offers up a strange set of circumstances. Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks was once a part of the Nuggets coaching staff. The question is, does that give either coach some insight to the other's game strategy?
3. Defense. Many points will be scored -- 3-pointers, slam dunks, mid-range jumpers and foul shots. However, my experience has taught me that playoff games are won in the trenches -- or the paint or post. Whatever you call it, the spoils of victory go to the team that controls that area.
MATT PINTO, RADIO PLAY-BY-PLAY
1. Open-court play. Can the Thunder keep the Nuggets from getting into the open court to generate easy baskets as effectively as they did in beating Denver twice last week? The Nuggets will need to score more than the eight fast break points they created in each of those two losses.
2. Denver's starting backcourt. Will George Karl start point guards Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton (assuming both are healthy, both suffered late-season ankle sprains) in an effort to accelerate tempo? If so, will the Thunder be able to handle their quickness and elusiveness defensively while taking advantage of their lack of size when the Nuggets defend?
3. How will the Thunder handle having the homecourt advantage in round one? It is a brand new experience for them collectively. The crowd figures to be an overwhelming force on their side. Denver is 1-9 in Game 1's of best-of-seven playoff series on the road and George Karl-coached teams are 0-10 in best-of-seven playoff series when losing the first game. Game 1 is extremely important in this series.