Thunder Moving Focus to Game 4

The environment inside Chesapeake Energy Arena during the Thunder’s 102-82 victory on Thursday night was special to say the least, and the Thunder is excited to get back on the court again on Saturday.

Taking little time to dwell over the win, the Thunder returned to the practice court on Friday and Head Coach Scott Brooks said that the team’s focus has moved completely to Game 4. Whether it is executing the game plan or coming out with the same verve and energy, the Thunder hopes to replicate its performance from Thursday, and then some.

“We felt we had a good game last night,” Brooks said. “We’re excited that we got the win, but it’s time to focus for Game 4. We know that they’re going to come out and play with great energy and effort. … We’re going to have to come out and play even better. That’s what our goal is, our plan and that’s our focus today.”

Some teams, particularly ones with a young nucleus like the Thunder, could get swept up in the emotion of such a large win over a team that was riding a 20-game winning streak. This team, however, with veteran leaders like Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher to complement the savvy youngsters like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, was prepared to move on from Game 3 and only use it as an advantage for Game 4.

“From an emotional standpoint, pretty much right away,” Fisher said when asked how quickly the win was forgotten. “Obviously when you come in today to work, you get a chance talk about some of the things you did well last night, some of the things you need to improve on, and get a chance to watch some film. You’re still using last night as an opportunity to get better.”

One aspect that the Thunder hopes to use from last night’s victory moving forward is the manner with which the team took to the court. While strong closeouts on shooters, good floor spacing and execution are certainly important, the Thunder was most thrilled by the energy, effort and passion that it displayed throughout the night. Serge Ibaka and Perkins both defended the pick-and-roll with activity and length, and Ibaka hopes the physical and mental success the team had carries over to Saturday.

“Last night we played with great effort, played hard and with toughness,” Ibaka said. “It’s not just toughness, but being smart too. They play all 24 seconds on the clock on offense, so you have to be able to play all 24 seconds. You have to be tough and smarter.”

The hope to replicate the things the Thunder did well and transfer it to Game 4 is certainly something Brooks’ team hopes to do. It is also pertinent to the Thunder’s mentality that Game 4 won’t play out exactly the same, no matter what the outcome. As a result, even though a guy like Thabo Sefolosha had a big night with 19 points and six steals on Thursday, it might be a different player or scenario that emerges on Saturday, which is what the Thunder prepared for today.

“(We) just saw what we did well and what worked for us, and what we can improve on,” Sefolosha said. “It’s going to be a different game, we know that they’re going to adjust, but as long as we worry about us and focus on what we do, we’ll be in good shape.”

With the right mentality in mind, the Thunder can take the same attitude that it did before Game 3. In going from down 0-2 to 1-2, Brooks’ squad simply focused on itself, concentrated on what it could control and took it one game at a time. The Thunder moved on from Game 3 quickly in hopes of evening up the series at 2-2 by once again investing all of its energy into Game 4.

“It was over with once the buzzer rang for me,” Durant said. “It’s such a quick turnaround in the Playoffs this year, so we have to get ready for tomorrow’s game. We know it’s going to be so much tougher and more physical. Those guys are going to come at us so we have to be prepared for it. We just have to play smart and hard and we’ll see what happens.”