Thunder about Seizing the Moment
MIAMI -- The Thunder’s roster is laden with young talent, with the likes of 23-year-olds Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and 22-year-olds James Harden and Serge Ibaka at its core. That doesn’t mean, however, that the team is taking this NBA Finals opportunity lightly.
With veteran leaders like Derek Fisher, Nazr Mohammed and Kendrick Perkins in the locker room, the Thunder understands just how difficult it is to reach the Finals, making its Game 3 battle against the Miami Heat tonight incredibly important. Throughout the season Durant and his teammates have been locked in on taking full advantage of the chances it has to take steps forward, and hopes to do that again tonight.
“Nothing is guaranteed with the way this league is going with so many great teams,” Durant said. “You never know. This is a great opportunity for us. We have to seize the moment and be ready.”
Durant’s bluntness and honesty in regards to the fact that Finals appearances are not pre-ordained shows a maturity that is pervasive amongst the Thunder players. On the same page with his All-Star teammate, Westbrook was totally zoned in on tonight’s game as the Thunder tries to get a leg up and break the 1-1 series tie in its favor tonight. When hearing Durant’s comment about seizing the moment, Westbrook said Durant’s message was on point.
“That’s huge,” Westbrook said. “That’s going to be a big thing for us because regardless of what happened in the last two games, tonight is all we need to worry about.”
Fisher, Perkins and Mohammed have a combined seven NBA championships, and have seen the hard work, determined mindset and good bounces that must go a team’s way just to get to the Finals, let alone win one. After joining the team in March, Fisher has brought his long-view perspective combined with his day-to-day sense of what is necessary to get the job done to this Thunder team. During the past few months, Fisher has seen Head Coach Scott Brooks’ squad grasp each chance it could to improve and find ways to win.
“I think when we put ourselves in this position it was about seizing the moment and taking advantage of this great opportunity,” Fisher said. “There are really no guarantees. I don’t think anybody in this building can promise these guys that they’ll be back in the Finals in the future in their careers. So it’s just about enjoying this and taking advantage of it now and getting the most out of it.”
Soaking in the moment and completely losing themselves in the team will be critical for the Thunder players tonight, as the team hopes to shake off a run of three-straight slow starts to ball games. Brooks and his staff have been intent on finding ways to jump-start the team in order to get the most out of the opening minutes. Using a boxing analogy, Brooks said that it’s important to land as many punches in the first round as it is in the tenth round.
“It’s important to have urgency every game and every possession,” Brooks said. “We’re worried about tonight’s game and we have a good opportunity to get the win. It’s a very competitive series. It usually comes down to the last three or four minutes of the ball game and who makes shots and who gets stops.”
As the Thunder has preached all season, defense will be the top priority heading into tonight’s game. If Brooks’ team plays with the requisite toughness on both ends of the floor, it will give itself a chance to make enough shots throughout the course of the game to take advantage of the stops it gets on defense.
The model for success has gotten the Thunder to this point, with strong team defense, collective box outs and smart, up-tempo run-outs being the staple for getting a high-percentage look on offense. Executing the gameplan that the Thunder knows and believes in is what Fisher and his teammates are confident it can do to be effective.
“We believe in ourselves,” Fisher said. “We believe in what we can do and we just want to make sure that we play to the best of our abilities and we can live with the results after that.”