Thunder Wants to Impose its Style in Game Two

For the Thunder, every ideal possession begins with a strong box out, a defensive rebound, a great outlet pass and a transition scoring opportunity. While the ebbs and flows of a NBA Playoff series features a perpetual chess match of strategy between coaches and players, there is also an emphasis for each team to stay true to the core values and basketball principles that brought them to the postseason.

A high-tempo offense that shares the ball and takes efficient shots paired with a physical defense is what earned the Thunder the number two seed in the Western Conference, and is what will continue to help it succeed moving forward. As Head Coach Scott Brooks explained Monday after shoot-around, the Thunder knows it must play its style and improve on its performance from Saturday.

“You have to do what makes your team successful,” Brooks said. “We’re not going to change, we’re not going to be a slow-down, half court, thirteen pass team. We have to defend, we have to make you turn it over and we have to rebound and run. We’re at our best when we have that formula. In the playoffs, we’re not going to change it, we just have to do it better every game and that’s what we strive for.”

“We strive for excellence every possession and there were a lot of possessions where we could have done better on both ends of the floor,” Brooks said. “That’s what motivates our staff, that’s what motivates our players is figuring out ways to get better on every aspect of the game.”

That motivation to improve even in the midst of a Playoff series is an important sign of maturation and is something the Thunder has aimed to do all season. Being able to sharpen the edges of the team’s weapons is critical heading into Game Two against a veteran team like the Dallas Mavericks. Both sides are so familiar with one another that there will be no surprises, only crisper execution that leads to victory.

“We know what they’re going to throw at us pretty much and they know what we’re going to do,” guard Thabo Sefolosha said. “Right now it’s about being tough mentally, being tough physically and playing our brand of basketball the way we know how to play.”

Game One was an exhilarating back-and-forth game that featured 16 different lead changes, Brooks and his squad knows that Game Two will be an entirely different style. Both teams will hope to dictate their brand of basketball throughout the night, and whichever team is able to do so for longer stretches and in the final minutes will likely be victorious. As a result, the Thunder quickly moved past Kevin Durant’s game-winning jumper and looked towards how it should approach Game Two.

“Every game is a new game,” Brooks said. “There are new dynamics in every game. You have to move on quickly, whether you win or whether you lose. Last game has no bearing and you have to focus on that.”

Part of the process in moving on to the next game in a series like this one is getting onto the practice court. During a condensed 66-game season that started on Christmas Day and ended on April 26, practice days were few and far between. During the postseason there are more days in between games, meaning more opportunities to improve and scout the next opponent. The Thunder was able to accomplish both of those things over the past 48 hours since the 99-98 Game One win.

“I think we came back yesterday and had a good film session, had a light shoot-around session and today our focus was good,” Brooks said. “We just went over some of the things that we needed to improve on and just keep talking about the things that we’ve done well and maybe try to do them a little bit better. It’s going to be a tough game tonight, we know they’re going to make some adjustments and we have to prepare for them if they do. We expect a very physical game.”