By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Before practice even started Saturday morning and Thunder coaches began distributing the game plan and the scouting report, Thunder players had a pretty good idea of what they were going to need to do against the Golden State Warriors.
“We gotta be prepared to guard every type of set, every type of player,” Kevin Durant told reporters after practice. “They can play big and small. Of course we have to focus on us but also know what they do and try to take it away.”
No easy task there. Knowing what they do is obvious enough, taking it away is something all together different, kinda like when OU football coaching legend Barry Switzer used to say “just cuz they know the wishbone is coming doesn’t mean they can stop it.”
“They have a very, very, flexible team,” head coach Billy Donovan said in beginning to explain the issues his team will face.
“They share (the ball), they move it, they have a very high skill level, good basketball IQ, understand the game real well, so those are challenges because you’re dealing with a lot of random movement and random playing and then obviously they’re very, very explosive in transition.”
Transition defense has of course been an issue at times for the Thunder and so have turnovers and Donovan acknowledges the Warriors can “generate a lot of turnovers.”
The 20 turnovers the Thunder had the other night against the Spurs “only” led to 18 points. Do something like that against the Warriors and they’re liable to score 30 or more off those 20 givebacks.
“We have to be disciplined,” Donovan said, “with a focus and attention to the preparation.”
That issue came up during the Spurs series when San Antonio guard Danny Green said the Thunder were so well prepared “they were calling out our plays.”
But again, knowing what’s coming and stopping it are two different things.
“We’ve played them three now and this will be a little different just because we’re gonna see them on consecutive games now,” Donovan said. “And with Game 1 we’ll learn more about ourselves in playing against them. Mainly what we wanna do is play to our identity. Be disciplined and disruptive on defense and offensively to be able to attack the paint, generate good open shots for each other, trust the pass and play unselfishly.”
Durant summed it all up.
“We just gotta be ourselves man.”
The Thunder will practice on Sunday morning before flying to San Francisco at mid-afternoon. Game 1 is set for an 8 o’clock tipoff Oklahoma time Monday night from Oracle Arena in Oakland. You can see the game exclusively on TNT.