Time To Focus On Clippers
By Randy Renner
Both Thunder superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook spoke to a throng of reporters this morning after their team's shootaround the first questions asked were about Durant's emotional and moving speech accepting the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player Award.
Unlike many award winners, Durant took the time to single out each and every one of his teammates, telling them how much they meant to him.
"It was very, very thoughtful of him to do that," Westbrook said. "He's a very sensitive and emotional guy and very sincere, that's just how he is. You can't hide who you are."
Almost 24 hours later KD was still a bit surprised at the reaction from people who were moved to tears hearing what he had to say.
"I didn't think it would be that big I guess," Durant said in his typical humble fashion. "I was just speakin' from the heart and it was fun to have my teammates there but it's time to focus on the game now."
The Thunder weren't focused on Game 1 and the Clippers made them pay dearly.
Tonight they promise things will be different.
"We gotta go out there and embrace the moment, even though we're down 0-1 and it's not the position we wanna be in," Durant said. "We gotta go out there and fight and fight, always fight until the end, so that's what we're gonna do tonight."
Westbrook thinks KD's speech yesterday, which clearly had an impact on his teammates, will also impact their play tonight.
"When things like that happen for somebody on your team that you love and that you wanna see do great, it can fuel you to be better as a team and it will him to do great as well."
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks is looking for his team to be better in several ways, most all of them on the defensive end of things.
"We have to do a better job of stopping the basketball, we have to do a better job of closing out on their shooters. All five guys have to be locked in and if you make a mistake you can't get away with that with this team."
Brooks said the Clippers executed their pick-and-rolls a little differently than what the Thunder had seen on film so some adjustments will be made with the coverages on those plays.
"And we also have to take care of the basketball," Brooks reminded. "The 23 points we gave up on our turnovers is too many. So we have to make sure we do a better job there. They're a very high scoring team and we can't give them opportunities in transition."
On Tuesday Westbrook admitted much of the problem on defense was, "just effort, effort based."
Though fans and media might have been surprised that energy and effort could be lacking in the first game of the conference semi-finals at home, Westbrook was not.
"I'm not that surprised," he said Tuesday. "Sometimes you have games like that and you just gotta be ready to bounce back."
The Thunder will have that opportunity tonight.
"It comes down to basketball at the end of the day, how we're gonna respond on the court," Durant said. "We know it's gonna be hard, we just have to focus in on doing things the right way. It should be fun, we're looking forward to it."
The game won't tipoff until around 8:45 tonight, it's the second game of TNT's playoff double-header and fans are being encouraged to be in their seats a bit early.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will present the MVP Trophy to KD during pregame ceremonies.
As emotional as yesterday was, tonight with cheers raining down from 18-thousand Thunder fans, you figure this moment will be special too especially if Durant and his teammates can end the night on the high side and send the series to La-La Land all tied up.