Thunder Focuses on Itself While Awaiting Next Opponent

There’s really not much you can do to prepare for your next opponent in the playoffs when you don’t know who it is.

Even though the options have been narrowed to two teams, Memphis and San Antonio, there’s still really nothing to prepare for. If you work on what the Spurs do, the Grizzlies would probably be there and vice-versa. So if you’re the Thunder, what do you do?

“Practice was good, just worked on some game situations and things we need to improve on,” answered veteran center Nazr Mohammed.

“We just worked on our things, some pick and roll defense, scrimmaged each other for two quarters and we got up and down pretty good,” said starting center Kendrick Perkins.

Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks echoed that but then added this, “Well, we’re all excited about it. We’re all going to be watching the (San Antonio-Memphis) game tonight figuring out who we will play. You know, it’s almost perfect for our guys. It’s like a college setting; we’re getting ready for the Sunday selection show.”

The Thunder is, after all, the youngest team in the NBA Playoffs. Players like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Cole Aldrich and Byron Mullens would still be in college had they not chosen to move on to the next level, so the Sunday selection show comparison is pretty accurate. But instead of leaving the opponent up to a committee, the Thunder will watch it play out on the basketball court, whether that series ends tonight in Memphis or Sunday in San Antonio.

“It’ll be fun tonight,” admitted Brooks. “It’s exciting. We’re all anticipating this game tonight.”

Practice on Friday was intense for the first hour and a half or so.

“We just worked on what we do and try to get a little bit better by correcting some of the things we didn’t do well in the Denver series,” Brooks told reporters. “Whoever we play, we know this: they’re going to run a lot of pick-and-rolls and try to score in the paint, so we worked on some of that.”

After the official practice session was done, all of the players stayed around for a half-court shooting contest and then a few stayed even longer for a 3-point shooting contest.

Even Thursday, which was basically a day off for the team, every player showed up ready to work.

“That showed a lot yesterday,” Perkins said, “and today guys went after each other hard in practice. You’re supposed to have fun this time of year, but at the same time you have to stay focused and our guys have been coming in getting their shots up.”

After playing Wednesday night, the Thunder won’t play again until at least Sunday and perhaps not until Tuesday, but the long layoff is not a concern for Brooks.

“I don’t think there’s an issue with too much time off for our team because we practice pretty hard so it’s not like we’re gonna lose our edge or anything so the time off doesn’t bother me. We’re just worried about how we play and what we want to get accomplished going into the next series and maybe finding out tonight who we’ll play.”

If the Grizzlies beat San Antonio tonight in Memphis, they win the series and will come to Oklahoma City to begin the best-of-seven second-round series on Sunday at noon. If the Spurs win tonight, the series returns to the Alamo City for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday and the Thunder would begin the second-round series on Tuesday, either at home or in San Antonio.

Whatever the outcome, the Thunder vows to be ready.