By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Back at practice Wednesday after a day off Tuesday the Thunder were running at full speed in 5-on-5 drills which was a joy to see for veteran big man Nick Collison.
"Yeah you don't always get to go live in practice during the playoffs so that's really good," Collison told a large group of local media.
It was also good to see everyone back and at least nearly ready to go. Kyle Singler fully participated in practice and Enes Kanter probably could have but was given light duty for one more day after a slight hip injury.
The Thunder are trying to choreograph their way through a Texas two-step to make it into the Western Conference Finals and many of them believe the first step already taken in that dance will help.
They faced some adversity in the first round against Mavericks, especially when they went to Dallas coming off a stunning loss on their home floor in Game 2.
Playing well in a frenzied atmosphere with a lot of pressure to win, even against a weakened Mavs squad, should help this team as it begins this next series even deep in the Lone Star State.
“I think the fact that we played well for the most part on the road and after a tough loss, being able to be pretty resilient in that series, I think is good for us,” said Collison, a veteran of every Thunder playoff series and even one when the team was still in Seattle.
“It gives us some confidence to go out and try to do it again,” he added.
Instead of trying to bounce back from a loss at home, like OKC did in the Dallas series, the Thunder will be trying to force the Spurs into that corner.
“When you play San Antonio you have to be prepared right from the tip on how fast and physical the series is gonna be,” Collison warned.
Yes fast and physical.
Don’t let the Spurs old and slow reputation fool you, that’s false advertising. Sure Tim Duncan is 40 years old now and Manu Ginobili isn’t far behind but they’ve added enough not as old guys (LaMarcus Aldridge, David West) and their young veterans keep adding to their resumes that this Spurs team doesn’t play nearly as old as their age average would have you believe.
“They’re gonna run their offense at a higher speed than most teams you play against,” said Collison, “so just being able to know what we’re coming into on the defensive end and how locked in we have to be from the jump is big.”
Billy Donovan agrees with Collison in thinking the way the Dallas series played out will help the Thunder more than if they had just bulldozed the Mavs into oblivion.
“I think that series helped us,” Donovan said. “I think we’re a better team now from going through those five games.”
Donovan has said before he thinks his team tends to respond well to adversity, might even need some adversity to help everyone focus in on what needs to be done and that happened against the Mavericks.
“I thought we got better offensively as the series went on, we did a lot of positive things.”
The defense though tended to trend the other way. Playing great and stifling the Mavs as the series started but then losing some of its edge as the games went on.
Donovan said he thought maybe that was more the result of the different lineups the Mavs were forced to use than anything else and he gave a lot of credit to the effort expended by Dirk Nowitzki.
Still some of those struggles give you pause when you look at how disciplined and precise the Spurs can be at both ends of the floor.
Donovan knows neither team will play perfect but going up against San Antonio he also knows the Spurs tend not to beat themselves and so it makes it that much more important that the Thunder don’t beat themselves either.
“For us taking care of the basketball because of the way this team has been able to score at times the worst thing we can do is not get a shot attempt up there.”
Turnovers have certainly plagued the Thunder at times and against the Spurs giving them extra opportunities to beat you is never a good idea. Especially when the Thunder are as good as they are at shooting and rebounding.
“You’re taking away two things when you turn the ball over, you’re taking away a chance to put the ball in the basket and you’re taking away a chance to get it back. So that’s always gotta be a premium for us, once the offensive possession starts we’ve gotta get something up to the basket.”