INTEGRIS Game Day Report: Thunder at San Antonio Spurs – Game 2 – May 2, 2016
By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | email@example.com
SAN ANTONIO – Energized and ready to go, the Thunder realizes the opportunity in front of its eyes – a chance to win Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs, which would flip home court advantage in this Round 2 series.
In the Playoffs, the only result on the scoreboard that matters is which team came away with more points, and for the Thunder that is the only objective – hold down San Antonio as much as possible and shake free for baskets on the offensive end. That goal can be realized, but only if the Thunder plays with a high level of intensity, focus and execution for every minute of the game. Of course, the tone is set early. In order to avoid a repeat of Game 1, the Thunder has to be engaged and ferocious from the opening tip.
“We have to be aggressors from the start of the game, meaning running our stuff hard, defending hard and making them shoot tough shots from the beginning,” forward Kevin Durant said.
“We need our whole team and we need everybody to go out there and play hard and play well,” Durant continued. “I wouldn’t say that playing well is necessarily shooting over 50 percent or having a double-double, but going out there and following the game plan.”
While limiting turnovers and running crisp offense will be essential against a Spurs defense that is one of the best in NBA history, the focus for the Thunder is on the defensive end. Getting back in transition, not allowing those pitch-ahead passes and forcing San Antonio into difficult shots is the formula for Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club. Once in the half-court, it’ll be about communicating at the screening actions on pick-and-rolls, then helping and recovering to prevent open shots.
“Your pick and roll coverage always starts at the point of attack and it starts with the guy on the ball and the guy who is guarding the screen,” Donovan explained. “We have to do that at a higher level.”
The x’s and o’s are no doubt a big part of what the Thunder must do in Game 2 to come away victorious, but in the Playoffs it’s the mental and emotional compartmentalization and discipline that can determine success.
Putting Game 1 in its rightful place, then working possession by possession, the Thunder has to remain glued into the task at hand on each play. Dealing with adversity and controlling its own tempo are musts against the Spurs, and the Thunder is confident that it has the veteran leadership and mental toughness to do it.
“We’re a resilient group of guys who have been in these situations before,” Durant said. “Just because we did it before doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again so we can’t bank on that, but we just have to go out there and be who we are. Usually when we go out there and play our brand of basketball, it produces good results.”
“There’s always going to be some kind of mental effect from competition,” Donovan said. “It’s important to put it in the right compartment, figure out where you have to get better and improve on the things you need to do better. We’ll have to play a lot better than we did in Game 1 and that’s the challenge here tonight.”
Tip-off: 8:30 p.m. CT
Television: TNT, Postgame on Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
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Nick Gallo is in his fifth season with the Thunder after spending four seasons in the NFL. The Durham, NC native is a Vanderbilt University graduate and has worked for the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans.You can reach Nick Gallo at firstname.lastname@example.org