Battle Tested Thunder Ready for Road Challenge
NEXT GAME: Friday, May 3
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
May 3rd, 2013
GAME 6: Thunder at Rockets
HOUSTON – When it’s just the players, coaches and staff on the bench that’s when a team can feel most unified.
Tonight in Game Six against the Houston Rockets in the Thunder’s first round Playoff series, the Thunder will be in enemy territory and enjoy every minute of it. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club had the second best road record in the NBA this season, and it relies upon leaders like Kevin Durant to keep everyone mentally tough when it faces difficult road challenges. By sticking to its brand of basketball and the team’s strategy, the Thunder has a chance to close out the series and move onto the next round.
“I feel great,” Durant said. “We have another opportunity to play. On the road it’s always tough, but we’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fun game. We’re just going to go out there, have fun, play the game and execute our game plan.”
In any NBA Playoff series it is essential to be able to win on the road. Having home court advantage throughout the Western Conference Playoffs is a great plus for the Thunder, but it also knows that in order to take care of business, it must be able to close opponents out earlier than the full allotment of seven games. Over the years the Thunder has been successful away from home, and as Brooks explained, it’s a combination of talent and focus that can get the job done.
“You have to have good players,” Brooks said. “That’s one thing we have. You have to be mentally focused and tough throughout a 48-minute game and we have that. We’ve always been a good road team… We feel good in what we do. We just have to go out and execute it and be consistent with our execution for 48 minutes.”
The Thunder’s locker room is already a tight-knit one, where teammates and coaches feel comfortable with one another and communicate well. When taking to the road, however, that bond can sometimes become even stronger because of the intensity of an opposing crowd. As a result, Thunder players are quick to say that they enjoy playing road games and accepts it as a challenge that it can take on as a collective unit. With trust and faith in one another, the Thunder will join together to try to win its fourth game of the series on Houston’s home court.
“We love to play on the road,” Ibaka said. “Our team, we play comfortably on the road. The most important thing is we have to be ready to play. “
“It’s really us against the world,” Durant added. “That’s how we feel coming into this building. It’s just us guys on the floor and the guys on the bench against the world. That’s how we’ve been looking at it the whole season. And we stay together. On the road you really have to come together as a group.”
Brooks’ team has already won one road game during this series, and very nearly sent the other road game into overtime if not for a couple of unfavorable bounces. Despite winning the first three games of the series and dropping the last two, the Thunder have kept an even keel. The young but experienced roster understands it can’t ride the emotional rollercoaster that the Playoffs can sometimes create, but rather just keep their minds on the task at hand. Playing tough defense and communicating will be important tonight, and that, more than anything else, is where the team’s attention lies.
“Our guys are focused,” Brooks said. “I expect us to play a very good basketball game tonight. We’re excited. We’re up 3-2. We feel like this is a great opportunity for us… We had a great shoot-around this morning and are looking forward to the game tonight.”