Practice Report: Thunder Expects Toughest Game Yet

DENVER -- Thunder center Kendrick Perkins has played in many big games during his eight-year NBA career. He knows full well the opportunity -- and challenge -- that sits in front of the Thunder as it prepares for Game 4 on Monday night.

"Denver is going to come in with a lot of pride," Perkins said following practice Sunday. "No one wants to go out 4-0.

"We need to go in like we're down 0-2 or the series is tied 1-1. You need to put your mind in that kind of focus."

The Thunder leads the best-of-seven series 3-0, but knows the Nuggets will battle to extend their season in front of their fans. Game time is 9:30 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

"This is always the toughest game," Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. "Every team feels the same, you don't want to go home. You always want to keep competing because you never know what can happen."

Perkins underscored that point while talking about his time with the Celtics and their 2008 NBA Championship run. The top-seeded Celtics were pushed to seven games by the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the first round.

"It was do or die. You have to keep your feet on their throat when you have the chance," he said.

The Thunder put itself in this position by winning the first three games, with different players stepping up each night:

  • Game 1, it was Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combining for 72 points and Eric Maynor hitting several big shots in a 107-103 win.

  • Game 2, Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison established a physical, defensive tone early and James Harden came up big offensively in a 106-89 victory.

  • Game 3, Ibaka had a career-high-tying 22 points, career-high 16 rebounds and four blocked shots; Westbrook and Durant combined for 22 of the Thunder's 26 fourth-quarter points and Harden had perhaps the defensive play of the series in a 97-94 win.

Before the series started, the talk of depth was about the Nuggets' roster. The Thunder has let the results speak for itself.

"We have a good team. All year long we've done that," Brooks said. "Kevin and Russell play a big role in our success, but it's more than that. Everybody on our teams steps up -- scoring, passing, defending. We have a team that loves to compete and get better and we should get better for a lot of years to come."

But neither Brooks or his players talk about the future -- or the past. They keep their focus on the game in front of them. And Monday night will be their toughest test yet.
"We have a big game tomorrow night," Brooks said. "We all have a lot of respect for Denver. We know we're going to have to play well."

Added Collison: "Denver is going to come in here with their season on the line. For us, our mind set has to be the same as it is every game -- play every possession."