Thunder Using Round 1 Mentality in Round 2 Lakers Series

At long last, the Thunder knows its Round 2 opponent.

On Monday night the Thunder will host the Los Angeles Lakers, who won a thrilling Game 7 in Round 1 over the Denver Nuggets. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club has spent the past week working on itself and having training camp-style practice days filled with scrimmages, high-intensity battles and some game planning. On Sunday, the Thunder was able to practice with the knowledge of the challenge it faces.

“It’s a great feeling, we’ve been waiting for eight days or so,” Brooks said. “We were prepared for both. We finally got an opponent. They’re very good. We know they present a lot of problems. Their bigs are as good as any bigs in the league. Kobe is one of the great gamesmen. We’re excited about the opportunity. We’re excited about the challenge ahead. It’s definitely a series that is going to be very tough, physical and a lot of intensity.”

“We had a long time off but we did a lot of good things in that time,” Brooks said. “We stayed sharp, we stayed competitive and we scrimmaged a lot. A lot of times NBA teams this time of year don’t get a lot of opportunities to play against each other in practice and scrimmage and get drills and do things that you’ve done in training camp. We’ve done it, but we’re glad it’s behind us. We’re excited about playing basketball.”

In a way, the Thunder now can start fresh and approach this series like it did against the Dallas Mavericks in Round 1. Going into that opening round clash, the Thunder didn’t know for sure that it would play Dallas until a few days ahead of its first game against the Mavericks. Now with the Lakers, it faces a similar situation and, as forward Nick Collison said, can use the same mentality heading into Monday’s game.

“Each series, we only had two days to prepare for a team because we didn’t know who we were going to play,” Collison said. “Strategically things are different because of different teams and different personnel. But I think our mindset is to be in the moment and play possession by possession and try to win the first game. I think you’re better off with that mindset.”

Guard James Harden, who said that center Kendrick Perkins took part in some practice drills with the team on Sunday, echoed Collison’s thoughts on how the Thunder will attack the Lakers. Having Perkins would be an important piece of the equation, considering the Lakers boast a powerful front line that features Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

“You have a team like the Lakers who knows how to win,” Harden said. “We just have to approach it and focus on one game at a time. We have to do what we need to do to be successful in that game. Obviously they have Kobe and two great bigs over there as well. It’s going to be tough for each and every player on this team but I think we can get it done.”

15-year NBA veteran Derek Fisher, who knows a thing or two about Playoff basketball, was even more emphatic about putting this week of rest behind them and grinding out each possession. Fisher said that all that matters is which team will be ready at 8:30 tomorrow night when the game starts, and not just from the start, but for 48 minutes or 53 minutes or 58 minutes, however many minutes it takes to win the game.

“Game 1 is tomorrow night at 8:30 and that’s all that matters,” Fisher said. “It doesn’t matter who has had days off, who you played in the first round or what’s happened in the past. When we play the game after tomorrow night is irrelevant as well.”