Thunder to Take Advantage of Opportunity
After the Thunder dropped the first two games of the Western Conference Finals to the San Antonio Spurs, Head Coach Scott Brooks told his team that 26 other teams in the NBA would love to be in their position.
With that “take nothing for granted” attitude in mind, the Thunder took full advantage of the opportunity in front of it and won four straight games to move on to the NBA Finals. Behind inspired team defense and heady ball movement and floor spacing led by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the Thunder took control of the series. The mindset of realizing how fortunate the team is to be in this position will continue to propel the Thunder to never take a day, a game or a possession off.
“(It helps) a lot,” Westbrook said. “You come in here and you may be tired one day and could take practice for granted, but other teams are not practicing right now. We came in and got better that next week and it helped us win four in a row.”
After two days of recovery as the Thunder awaited its Finals opponent, the team had rested minds and bodies when it returned to practice on Saturday and Sunday. When reminded of the words of encouragement he gave his team two weeks ago, Coach Brooks said that he can use that same lesson as his young team moves forward in the Playoffs. Facing the Miami Heat in a best-of-seven series will be the Thunder’s toughest task yet, but one that it will approach with the utmost sincerity.
“There are 28 teams would love to be in that position,” Brooks said. “Our goal is to win a championship just like the other 29 teams. It’s down to two teams. Our goal is never to get to the conference finals or get to the NBA Finals. Our goal is to win a championship. We know the next step is going to be the most difficult.”
Stepping onto the biggest stage of NBA basketball also brings the responsibility and forces of being under the microscope. With the added media crunch all eyes will be on Oklahoma City, but veteran guard Derek Fisher knows that he and his teammates have the maturity to handle anything that comes its way and will be able to avoid distractions. Fisher, a five-time NBA champion, echoed Brooks’ thoughts in regards to the Thunder’s current position.
“It all comes with the territory,” Fisher said on Saturday. “After (Saturday), there will be 28 other teams that wish they had these problems. We just have to be thankful and fortunate and get ourselves ready to go come Tuesday night.”
In understanding that these opportunities to make the Finals and even the Playoffs are not guaranteed from year to year, the Thunder recognizes that it must make the most of this chance. All of the hard work, dedication to development and collective improvement over the past four seasons since the Thunder arrived in Oklahoma will be put to the test, so Brooks’ team wants to make sure it continues working as hard as it ever has in order to give itself a chance to succeed.
“We have an opportunity to win a championship but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of commitment and sacrifices,” Brooks said. “But we’ve done it all year long. It’s not like we’re changing the way we think, we’re not changing the way we practice, we’re not changing the way we come into the game mindset-wise. We have a lot of work to do to get this accomplished, but it’s always one game at a time.”