Thunder Problem-Solving Like it Has All Season
MIAMI -- Whether it’s verbal communication on the court, analysis in the film room or working things out during practice time, the Thunder has managed all season to adjust on the fly and problem solve as a unit.
Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team arrived in Miami on Friday and took Saturday to practice and get things in order before its Sunday Game 3 matchup against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. The fourth-year head coach and former NBA Coach of the Year has mostly pushed the right buttons throughout the year and his team has responded. He hopes that again in the Finals, his team can do the same.
“I’ve seen all year long a group that is always committed, always sticks by one another, that believes in the work that we put in,” Brooks said. “That’s who we are. It’s not going to change. We’ve always had a great ability to bounce back after a tough loss. We expect the guys to come back with better effort and better play for 48 minutes.”
With in-game and in-series adjustments like putting Russell Westbrook on Jason Terry, using Kevin Durant to guard Kobe Bryant and having Kendrick Perkins front Andrew Bynum in the fourth quarter, the Thunder navigated the first two rounds of the Playoffs by staying a step ahead of the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers to emerge 8-1 through two rounds.
The San Antonio Spurs jumped on the Thunder 2-0 before Brooks made his best change yet- putting Thabo Sefolosha on Tony Parker and imploring his team to beat the Spurs at its own ball movement game to advance from the Western Conference Finals. Those important decisions have helped the Thunder take control of the style of play, which has earned major respect points from guys like Durant, who have to execute those gameplan changes.
“Coach has been teaching us along the way,” Durant said. We just have to continue to keep playing together, keep believing in each other and trusting each other on both ends of the floor and good things will come out of it.”
“We learn quickly and we’ve been doing that the last four years, learning on the job,” Durant continued. “We have to know when to get back on defense, when to get an offensive rebound, when to make the right pass. I think we’ve been doing a good job.”
Along with Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden, the Thunder’s young core has been together for three full seasons now and have learned how one another reacts to adversity. Westbrook displayed confidence in his teammates to stay the course, never getting too high or too low after games no matter what the outcome. The consistency with which the Thunder approaches its day to day work combined with its ability to work together to find solutions has been instrumental to the team’s success.
“Our guys are always ready to play regardless of after losses or after wins,” Westbrook said. “Adjusting is not a big issue for us. It’s just us coming out and playing our game, especially on the defensive end.”
The team’s work this week will be essential if it hopes to regain home court advantage and put the Heat back on its heels. With the series at 1-1, the Thunder faces three straight games at the American Airlines Arena in Miami. While pundits may be considering the implications of how many wins the Thunder needs to get in Miami, the Thunder are only focused on Game 3. Winning Sunday night’s game is the only thing the Thunder can control at the moment, and Durant said that it is imperative the team accomplish that goal.
“We have no other choice,” Durant said. “We lost at home, it was a tough loss. We have to get over it and get ready for a tough Game 3. This series is going to be tough and we know that. We just have to be ready. It’s going to be a fun one tomorrow.”