Fast Break Points- May 15 Notebook

Depth and toughness along the front line will be key for the Thunder throughout this second-round series because the Lakers have a formidable front line of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Jordan Hill.

Thunder center Nazr Mohammed said that it’s important to play Bynum and Gasol the same way he would against Shaquille O’Neal when he was playing. That means staying between the Lakers’ towers and the basket, forcing them away from the rim and making them take shots over top of you.

While Mohammed said that while the Lakers' front-line players will inevitably get some buckets at the rim, their chances of scoring will decrease if they’re pushed out further away from the basket. Kendrick Perkins has been the defensive anchor of the club, but when Perkins re-injured his hip on Monday, Mohammed stepped in and earned praise from Head Coach Scott Brooks.

“I give Nazr a lot of credit,” Brooks said. “He didn’t play a lot last series. I think he only played in one game, but he stayed ready in case we needed it. The last series wasn’t a good matchup for an extra big. This series, it is. The Lakers have their big front line and they come at you and they go to the boards every time.”

Another area where the Thunder "bigs" -- Perkins, Mohammed, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich -- were commended was in their boxing out and rebounding. Guard Russell Westbrook said the Thunder front-line players were using their bodies and it gave the perimeter guys the opportunities to get rebounds by boxing out and pushing their bigs away from the rim.

Below are the Fast Break Points from Tuesday's practice as the Thunder prepares for Game 2.

- Westbrook went 10-for-15 in Game 1, and said he was just picking his spots. He also added that Perkins, Mohammed, Collison and Ibaka do a great job of setting screens and it gives him opportunities to attack. The Lakers try to be physical on him, but his job is to play at his own pace and keep his team rolling. Coach Brooks added that those screens are just as good as assists, but don’t show up on the stat sheet.

- According to Westbrook, Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha uses his length, gets his hand on the ball and forces Kobe Bryant to take tough shots. Sefolosha said that he knows where Kobe likes to get the ball and he just tries to deny him from getting the ball in those places.

-Part of the media session revolved around Westbrook’s fashion statement on Monday night, which featured red large-framed glasses and an interesting, colorful collared shirt. Westbrook said he’s been wearing glasses all season and deadpanned that he sees better without the lenses in the frames. Westbrook said he’s known how to dress well for a while now and got the shirt at Lacoste, despite TNT’s Charles Barkley’s assertion that he got it at TJ Maxx. Westbrook didn’t hear Barkley’s joke until this morning, but said that it was definitely funny. Both Sefolosha and Coach Brooks clowned Westbrook a bit for the bait-and-tackle-themed shirt. “Hopefully, we don’t see it again,” Sefolosha said.

- Westbrook said that the four turnovers in Game 1 for the team is a sign of increasing maturity. He joked that it’ll be hard to have less than four turnovers in Game 2 and said he normally has four by himself, but the team will hope to keep them low again. After the game Kevin Durant said the team could continue to improve on its turnovers, and Westbrook wasn’t surprised, saying it is in Durant’s nature to say there are things the team can improve upon. Sefolosha said the team has been thinking about and focusing on keeping turnovers down all season and while Coach Brooks said that he didn’t put it up on the board to keep turnovers under five, the team did a great job of moving the basketball and keeping outstanding spacing.

- Sefolosha said the Thunder’s focus is on defense and that regardless of what the Thunder does offensively, if it holds opponents to 40 percent shooting, it will be all right. The team and he always have confidence defensively and accept the challenge of defending Bryant. It’s a team effort for all five guys on the court playing against a guy like Bryant and the rest of the Lakers lineup, according to Sefolosha.

- Sefolosha laughed about his conversation at Game 1 with NBA super-fan Jimmy Goldstein. “He’s a great guy, he comes to a lot of the games,” Sefolosha said. Goldstein sat in on the post-game press conferences after Game 1, and will be back at Chesapeake Energy Arena for Game 2 as well.

- Center Kendrick Perkins did not practice today, but did shoot free throws. Coach Brooks said that Perkins will be a game-time decision tomorrow. The Thunder will trust its medical team and won’t put Perkins or any of its players out on the floor unless they are healthy enough to play.

- Coach Brooks’ words on the Thunder’s mentality heading into Game 2: “We won our first game at home, and that’s what we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to win our home games. We’re a very good basketball team. We’re very good at home, we have a great crowd. Tomorrow’s game, it’s Game 2. No one is going to think of Game 1. If you do, you’re not going to put yourself in a position to win. We have to focus on Game 2. Our guys have done a good job all year. We’ve always had that mentality, one game at a time and we put that at a premium in the playoffs.”


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