Thunder Confident Because of Work Ethic, Gameplan

After Saturday afternoon’s practice had ended and the Thunder began to huddle up, Kevin Durant, Derek Fisher and Nazr Mohammed lingered in the paint in front of one of the baskets.

The Integris Health Thunder Development Center has always been a place for hard work and continual improvement. Even after a practice that ended only a couple hours before the team departed for San Antonio, the trio of Thunder players continued to talk to one another, with Fisher standing just off the block pointing out different spots on the floor. It appeared to be a quick game-planning meeting amongst the two eldest members of the Thunder and one of the members of its young core.

As Head Coach Scott Brooks described, the Thunder had nearly a week of preparation time for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, and put those days to good use.

“I think we had a great week of practice, a good film session, good shooting sessions, but we’re ready to play.” Brooks said. “Now it’s time to play against another team, but we’re excited. We know that we have a big challenge ahead of us.”

With practices on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday that also involved film study and the type of post-practice scheming that occurred today, the Thunder took the time to delve into its concepts and the way it attacks. It was a time for the players to continue to build faith in the coaching staff’s game plan for this series, in addition to it being a chance for the coaching staff to assess the degree of effectiveness its players could execute the strategies. This is a Thunder team that knows what got it to this point, and for a guy like Durant, extra practices just means more time for the Thunder to hone its collective craft.

“We’re a confident team, but we also respect our opponents,” Durant said. “Having three or four days does wonders, especially for our bodies and also game planning and how we’re going to play our game and how we’re going to defend and stuff like that. The coaches always do a great job of preparing us right and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

While the coaching staff comes up with a game plan based off film study and the Thunder’s core principles, they don’t simply roll the ball out on the court and let the players go for it. Coach Brooks credited his players’ work ethic and sustained level of competitiveness, fire and passion for getting better every day. Since the Thunder arrived in Oklahoma City four years ago, the team’s philosophy has always been to let the work shine through.

“We know that we’re a good team and we’re a confident team, but that confidence, it has to come through the work,” Brooks said. “Our guys do a great job of really committing to work. Our success is not just overnight, it doesn’t just happen, it happens through all the effort that guys put in… We have to play with great effort, we have to work hard, but nothing changes on our end. We’ve done that and we’ve done it for a lot of years. That’s the reason why we’re a good team, because of the work we’ve put in.”

The Thunder finished second in the Western Conference in the regular season and have gone 8-1 in the Playoffs thus far against two teams that have won the last three NBA Championships. However, it now must go up against the first seeded Spurs, who Coach Brooks said has been playing the best basketball in the NBA over the past few months. The Thunder is ever-focused on itself, however, meaning that Durant and his teammates will only look to each other, with the mutual trust the team has built through its time on the practice floor together, as inspiration to play at its highest level.

“All we can worry about is the guys here in the locker room and focus on how we can get better each and every day and how we’re going to come out and play in this series,” Durant said. “We’re just looking forward to this challenge and we want to come out and play hard.”

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