Thunder to Learn From Game 1, Make Adjustments
That continual improvement and long term development is a quality that the organization emphasizes even in the midst of the Western Conference Finals. As a result, on Monday in between Game 1 and Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs, the Thunder took to the practice floor to find ways to enhance its performance on Tuesday night. Forward Kevin Durant was excited for a chance to learn from the Thunder’s 101-98 loss in Game 1 and move forward.
“It’s all about making adjustments,” Durant said. “I think our coaches always do a great job of preparing us right and watching film and studying what we could do to be better. We’re looking forward to a good day today.”
Head Coach Scott Brooks has been around these Thunder players for quite some time now, and ever since the organization arrived in Oklahoma City four seasons ago, the mentality has been the same. Brooks is never surprised by the work ethic of the young core of this team, meaning that his players will respond to and can benefit from an hour-plus-long film session while keeping the series in perspective.
“We’re not going to do much on the floor, maybe walk through a few things,” Brooks said. “We’ll watch film, we’ll get better. One of the things about our guys is that they love to get better, they love to compete and they know we had a great opportunity but it’s not the end of the world. We’re down 1-0 and it’s the first to four. We’ve always had that philosophy of going one game at a time.”
Specifically, the Thunder saw some areas in which it succeeded on Sunday night, building a nine-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter while outscoring the Spurs by 15 in the second and third periods. Forward Serge Ibaka liked what he saw offensively from the Thunder early on with its ball movement and adept passing. As a part of a Thunder team who likes to push tempo and get clear looks at the rim on the break, Ibaka said he’d like to see that style of play extend to all four quarters.
“Just play aggressive and then on offense try to move the ball better,” Ibaka said. “In the third quarter we were playing aggressive and we were getting some easy buckets in transition on fast breaks. In the last quarter they slowed it down a little bit.”
Guard Russell Westbrook seemingly felt the same way about the Thunder’s defense throughout the night. Forcing 14 first half turnovers was a sign that his team’s length and activity bothered the Spurs, but the 11 steals and nine blocked shots by the Thunder weren’t enough when the Spurs executed better on offense in the fourth quarter. To have a chance to win Game 2, Westbrook said that the helping, rotating team defense will need to be on point for the entire game.
“It was good team defense, everybody did a good job of being in help position, we just weren’t able to come away with a win.” Westbrook said. “It’ll give us an opportunity to win the game. They’re a tough team, they’re always going to make runs, but it gives us a better opportunity to come out with a win.”
Both offensively and defensively, the Thunder was pleased with certain aspects of its performance. As Durant succinctly summed up, Brooks and his staff want their Thunder players to harness those stretches and extend them to the entire contest.
“We just have to put together 48 minutes,” Durant said. “It’s a long game and we did things we wanted to do on the defensive end. We just have to do a better job.”