Thunder Returns Home with Focus on Game 5
Despite leading the best-of-seven series 3-1, the Thunder realizes that nothing is guaranteed in the NBA Playoffs, so putting its entire focus and energy into bringing its best effort Monday night was top of mind. Brooks and his team arrived back in Oklahoma City at 5:15 a.m. Sunday, but later that day Brooks was already engaged in his attempt to prepare his team for Game 5.
“It was a great win last night, but when tomorrow comes and its game time you can’t focus on what you did in L.A.," he said. "You have to focus on what you have to do in the game tomorrow. Our guys have done a good job all year of doing that. I don’t see that changing. We know it’s always tough to close out a team, especially a team that has championship DNA and a guy named Kobe on their team.”
Playing back in Chesapeake Energy Arena in front of the dedicated, faithful T-shirt-wearing fans will bring an extra boost to the Thunder players and coaching staff, but Brooks said his team will have to earn the win in its own right. He expects another tough game against the Lakers, and says the Thunder will need to play four full quarters of tough defense along with good offensive execution.
“It’s always great to play in front your home crowd, especially our crowd,” Brooks said. “They’re going to get into it. They’re there early and don’t leave early. For 48 minutes they give us everything we can ask for as fans and we love it. We know they’re going to be there tomorrow. We’re excited about the game. The crowd can help, but we have to do our job with good energy and great execution and play with a lot of toughness to stop their team.”
That execution on the offensive end will start with guard Russell Westbrook, whose 19 assists against just three total turnovers in this series. On defense, the heart and fight of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka in the post will continue to be important, while the emerging defense of Kevin Durant has also been key. As a result, the Thunder will stay with its personality and style of play in Game 5.
“I think we just stick with our game plan and what we’ve done and just try to get better at it,” Brooks said. “We’ll always go back and watch our film today and then tomorrow make a few adjustments. Nothing major, because I don’t think you necessarily need to do that, not just because we’re up 3-1, just because you have to go with what you do well and what has worked to put you in this position. We will change a few things on the offensive end and defensive things. We’ll look at what (the Lakers have) done.”
Each of the last three games in this series has gone down to the wire, meaning that even if the Thunder plays with the style that was successful all year, it will still be a tough battle. Knowing that the Lakers will be fighting for its Playoff lives, the Thunder will remember that it’s a 48-minute game that it must fight through all night. Giving itself a chance to win at the end of the game is the prime focus for this Thunder team, which owns a never-say-die attitude.
“There were times last night when things did not look good,” Brooks said. “They had everything going for them, making shots, getting stops and we just seemed like a step slow. But we came back and fought and made it close with our defense and that’s what we’ve done all year. I think what we learned, and what we know is the same, we know we have to play 48 minutes and anything is possible if you commit to the team.”