Thunder Locking In On Game 4 Opportunity

As Head Coach Scott Brooks told his team earlier this week, there are 26 other NBA teams who would love to be at this stage of the Playoffs. For the Thunder, that means it must capitalize on its position.

It’s game day again at Chesapeake Energy Arena, and another chance for the Thunder to get a win in its Western Conference Finals matchup against the San Antonio Spurs. Down 2-1 in the series, the Thunder knows that with a win it puts itself in a much better position moving forward. Playing in front of the raucous home crowd in Oklahoma City will be a rallying point for the team in its biggest test yet in these Playoffs.

“We have a lot of pride in our home court,” Brooks said. “We’re tough to beat on our home court. We understand that, just like they are in San Antonio. We have a great opportunity, we have to embrace the challenge and it’s going to be a difficult challenge. We understand that there are two good teams playing.”

The Thunder’s mindset heading into tonight is one of respect for a highly capable Spurs team, but more squarely pointed to focusing on itself. Center Kendrick Perkins said that when the team simply concentrates on what it can control as opposed to worry about its opponent, it can commit more deeply to the core values and principles the team must play with in order to be successful.

“(We have to) just keep playing for one another,” Perkins said. “I feel like tonight is one of the nights where everybody has to lose themselves in the team. No matter who the hero is or scores the most points on the team, just everybody do their job tonight and we’ll get a win.”

That selfless team concept is something that the Thunder has displayed throughout the season and is something that helped it win on Thursday night. With offensive execution that involved multiple passes and floor spacing, along with multiple efforts and strong defensive closeouts on shooters, the Thunder gave itself to the system and hopes to do so again.

While the Spurs may make some adjustments after Game 3, Head Coach Scott Brooks said that he doesn’t imagine either team will make massive adjustments and that it will be important to stay within the team concept while also playing through the feel of the game.

“We’re both successful teams and we both have a system and a philosophy in place,” Brooks said. “Not to say that you can’t tweak it every now and then and throw different wrinkles out there. Both teams do that. You do that throughout the game, you do that when you’re winning and you do that when you’re losing.”

The x’s and o’s are an important part of how Game 4 will shake out, but in order to get an important win, the Thunder must bring the same will, the same desire for victory and overall effort that it displayed in Game 3. With players flying around the court, intelligent ball movement and spacing and mental fortitude, the Thunder will have a chance to get a win tonight, and as guard James Harden said, the team knows full well what the stakes are in this one.

“We have an unbelievable opportunity to tie this series up 2-2,” Harden said. “We can’t let this opportunity slip away… It’s a big game for us tonight.”