Energetic Thunder Ready for Game 2
Over the past two days the Thunder’s mood after its Game 1 loss to the Spurs has transformed in a logical manner, from figuring out what it could fix to being excited about the opportunity ahead of it. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team has always exhibited a verve during practice and shootaround sessions, as a team that genuinely enjoys the process of improving.
“We had a great film session yesterday, it showed a lot of things that we could improve on and it showed a lot of things that we did very well,” Brooks said. “Today we went over the things we saw yesterday, but we’ve always been a team that really focused on getting better and using all avenues to improve, whether it’s one-on-one individual work, team sessions, film sessions, bigs or smalls sessions, we’ve always done a good job of improving our team that way.”
One area in which the Thunder has shown its focus on finding ways to improve is in bounce-back games. During the regular season the Thunder was 16-3 in games after a loss, and won Game 4 in Los Angeles against the after dropping Game 3 in its 4-1 series defeat of the Lakers. The problem-solving process that the Thunder has in place for analyzing every game, win or lose, is combined with a passion and fire to win every time the team steps on the floor.
“We take pride in what we do as a group,” Brooks said. “We take pride in how we perform each game. We’re not happy that we lost the game, but we did lose to a very good team. … One of the things is that we will bounce back, we will play with great effort, hopefully we can play a little better.”
That level of effort is a qualitative display in a largely qualitative game, but one place that the impact it has becomes obvious is on the defensive end of the court. Whether it’s hedging out on a pick-and-roll to prevent penetration, making multiple efforts to prevent a pass into the post or closing out smartly on a potential three-point shooter, the Thunder wants to show its best possible effort on defense and allow that side of the ball to propel its offense.
“We’re a good defensive team,” Brooks said. “We take pride in our defense, we’re active, and we get after it defensively.”
One simple way the Thunder was able to have success on defense for large stretches of Game 1 was in keeping its arms and hands up and active. By staying in the passing lanes and using the team’s collective length and quickness to bother the Spurs, the Thunder made 11 steals, led by four from Thabo Seoflosha.
With Russell Westbrook pressuring the ball and the likes of Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Derek Fisher getting their hands on the ball, the Thunder wants to again find ways to disrupt the Spurs offensive rhythm in Game 2. If it can force turnovers and get out into transition, the Thunder’s defensive intensity can spark offensive success.
“That’s what we do, that’s what our team is built on, using our length and using our athleticism,” Durant said. “Coaches always emphasize playing with our hands and getting deflections, we chart deflections. It’s something that has been a part of us since day one. Thabo was great, Russell was great, Serge was great and everybody else fell in line. We just have to keep playing with our hands and keep using our length.”