Shoot-around Report: Thunder Set for Game 4

DENVER -- Talk to any Thunder player or coach about their thoughts on Game 4 tonight, and the answer is the same: the Denver Nuggets are going to bring everything they have in an effort to keep their season live.

"We know they're going to come out and have a great start," Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said following shoot-around Monday. "I thought we did a good job of handling that in the last game. The energy in the crowd was great. We have to do a good job of preparing for that and have a good start."

The Thunder leads the best-of-seven series 3-0 and faces the difficult challenge of not only trying to close out the series, but to do so on the road.

The Thunder refuses to treat this game any different than the previous three games in the series -- or the 82 regular-season games it played. It is approaching tonight with the same focus it has had in its three-year history: play tough defense, play for your teammates, play with emotion and compete for 48 minutes.

"If we try to focus on a bigger story, it will hurt us," forward Nick Collison said Sunday. "We'll be geared up to play."

A couple of notes and quotes from shoot-around:

  • Brooks stressed the importance of limiting the Nuggets' free-throw opportunities. Denver attempted 43 free throws in Game 3 -- it made 33. "You have to defend without fouling. Good defense is not putting them on the free-throw line," he said. "You want to defend the best you can without fouling because fouling is a mistake."

  • Brooks was asked if, after playing five games against the Nuggets this month, is there anything Denver can do in the series now that might catch the Thunder by surprise. He thought about and said: "Coach Karl has a lot of things up his sleeve. But we're going to do what we do and hopefully do it very well."

  • James Harden was asked what he expects from the Nuggets tonight. "A tough game," the second-year Thunder guard answered. "It's tough to close out a team."

  • Kevin Durant (30.0 points per game) is the second-leading scorer in the NBA Playoffs, behind Orlando center Dwight Howard (32.3). Russell Westbrook (25.0) is eighth. ... With his career-high 16-rebound effort in Game 3, Ibaka is averaging 11.0 rebounds in the playoffs. He is one of seven players averaging at least 11.0 rebounds. ... Speaking of Ibaka, he is tied with the Spurs' Tim Duncan for blocked shots in the playoffs at 3.33 per game. ... Of the 16 teams in the NBA Playoffs, the Thunder ranks first in points per game and defensive rebounds per game and is third in total rebounds and free-throw percentage.