By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
The Thunder made Game 1 of their playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks look easy, a dominating 108-70 win, the widest margin ever in an OKC playoff game.
But superstar point guard Russell Westbrook told reporters at shootaround today it doesn’t matter how big the numbers were on the scoreboard Saturday night, he and his teammates have no reason to brag, no reason to get the big head, no reason to celebrate.
“We shouldn’t feel like we done anything,” he said. “We won one game, regardless of how many points it was by, we only won one game. We should come out desperate tonight just like they should.”
Still you’d think it would be hard to keep Saturday’s performance from cropping up, for both teams. The Thunder might think this series will be too easy and the Mavs might think it will be too hard.
Westbrook figures the key for the Thunder is just focus on themselves and come out with the same kind of defensive intensity they brought on Saturday.
“We just gotta play aggressive defensively,” he said and then admitted, “We’re not gonna play perfect, there might be some letdown. This is the playoffs and every game’s not gonna be the same. We just have to make sure we grind it out and take care of home court.”
Forward Serge Ibaka played a major role in leading the charge on defense and as physical as he and the Thunder made things for the Mavs, Ibaka says that’s not really the key.
“It’s not really about physical, it’s about mental,” he pointed out. “You can be physical but if mentally you’re not strong or focused you can’t really play the way you wanna play. So it’s about mental and focus.”
Teams are able to spend a lot of time in the postseason going deep into scouting reports. In the regular season, when you might be playing four games in five nights against different teams, there’s just not enough time to delve deeply into much of anything.
In the playoffs the mental aspects of being able to outthink your opponent, almost knowing what they’re going to do before they know themselves, can be the key to winning.
For Ibaka, that’s especially important because most of the time he’s guarding the Mavs multiple All-Star forward, Dirk Nowitzki.
“Guarding Dirk, one of the best power forwards in NBA history, the key is to stay focused and not get distracted and you have to know he’s gonna make some tough shots and he’s gonna get calls from the referee so you just have to make him take tough shots.”
And that’s what Ibaka did and he was able to keep Nowitzki off the 3-point line, not one of his 15 shots came from beyond the arc.
Ibaka and Steven Adams combined to grab 16 rebounds and help control the Mavs pick-and-roll game which can be deadly at times. Adams said even though the Thunder messed some things up with their coverages Saturday they had the speed and quickness to get back into proper position.
“We made a lot of mistakes but because of our energy we were able to make up for it,” Adams said.
“Like say in the pick-and-roll we would have a miscommunication and they are coming down hill, well everyone gets on the same page and we rotate really quickly. The window for them to actually capitalize off a mistake like that is really small because of our energy and speed.”
The Mavs will be without point guard J.J. Barea and forward David Lee and they may decide to start Zaza Pachulia at center over Salah Mejri. Pachulia is bigger and more physical than Mejri.
“Yeah he’s a big boy mate have you seen his head? He’s got a really big head, it’s awesome,” Adams chuckled. “They mock me cuz I’ve gotta big head, but wow.”
Tipoff is set for 7:10 and you can see the game on either Fox Sports Oklahoma or TNT. Follow me on Twitter @RandyRenner for a last minute update on the status of Cameron Payne, Nick Collison and Nazy Mohammed. Payne appeared ready to play tonight when he was seen being very active at shootaround.