Game 7 the Opportunity of a Lifetime
“If you ask anybody coming into the season if you want one game to go to the NBA Finals, they'll sign up for that,” an upbeat Kevin Durant said on Sunday morning.
Before the Thunder embarked for Oakland and a Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, the team held a practice where players and coaches re-centered themselves for the win-or-go-home challenge that awaits them in Oracle Arena on Monday night. Durant, Russell Westbrook and this experienced Thunder team recognizes that Game 6’s 108-101 loss is in the rearview mirror. The only thing they can control is the road ahead of them.
KD: "We can't hang our heads. We have another game to play." Russ: Gm 7 attitude: "Win or go home. Simple as that." pic.twitter.com/rrDXUDJesG
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) May 29, 2016
“You've just got to lose yourself and get really deep into the task at hand and enjoy it at the same time and not put too much pressure on yourself. I think from the first to the 15th guy, we've got to enjoy this process,” Durant explained. “We've got to be excited for this opportunity and know that it doesn't come around often and take advantage of it.”
There’s no doubt the Thunder would have loved to close out the Warriors in either Game 5 or 6 when it had the opportunity to, but there’s no use in lingering over that now. As Durant mentioned at practice, no one in Oakland, in the press or the outside world will feel sorry for them, so they can’t waste any time feeling sorry for themselves.
That’s why the biggest takeaway from Thunder practice today wasn’t the analysis of the x’s and o’s against a 73-win team that Head Coach Billy Donovan has now scouted nine times this season. The number one reason for optimism in the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center, as it has been for nearly a decade, was the people themselves and the attitudes they carried into the facility as they aim to clinch a berth in the NBA Finals.
“We lost Game 6, and it was a tough, hard-fought game. We're disappointed about not having a different outcome. But we haven't lost the series, and we have an opportunity again,” Donovan said. “Just being around these guys, they're a resilient group. They're looking forward to getting prepared today and shootaround tomorrow and getting ready to play.”
“This is what you dream about, getting this opportunity,” Durant added. “We've got to take advantage of it. Go up into their building, and it's going to be great atmosphere. We're looking forward to the opportunity.”
All series long the Thunder has shown that they can battle with the Warriors and hang with them blow by blow. In Game 1, Donovan’s group gutted out a victory on the road and then earned two blowout victories in Oklahoma City in Games 3 and 4. Despite falling in two close contests over the past four days, the Thunder has faith – in its people, its methods and its connectedness – to put together a 48-minute effort filled with relentlessness, a will to win and a dedication to the team above anything else.
“It's Game 7. Just got to come out and perform our best,” said Steven Adams, laying it out there like the Thunder will do on the floor Monday night.