Confused But "Resilient" Thunder Say They'll Be Better Tonight
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
The Thunder seemed both dazed and confused the day after their Saturday Night Massacre just up the highway from The Alamo.
Andre Roberson and Russell Westbrook both seemed to indicate the Thunder were lacking in energy and effort right after the game.
By Sunday afternoon’s practice Steven Adams agreed, “I think they just played harder than us man, that’s what it was. That’s all it came down too. They came out with a higher intensity level.”
But team leader Kevin Durant disagreed with the others, “No, I don’t think it was an issue of them playing harder. I think what they did is put us in some difficult situations on the defensive end.”
Hard to fix what’s wrong when you can’t agree on what the problem is. And there are those who would say those difficult situations Durant spoke of were the direct result of being out of position due to a lack of hustle to get to the correct position.
Billy Donovan called it more of a lack of execution than a lack of effort but again it’s hard to execute properly if you’re not putting out the effort to get back in transition and bring some help side defense too.
But Billy D could also have still been suffering some post traumatic stress so soon after Game 1 because he also said this on Sunday.
“I really actually thought we played pretty good defense and did a good job,” he said.
Um, well, uh...things did get better in the second half when OKC outscored the Spurs 52-51. Maybe that's the part Coach was talking about. Sure didn’t see much good from the defense in the first half when just Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge outscored the entire Thunder squad 45-40 and OKC trailed 73-40.
In fairness Billy went on to say “There are a lot of things we need to do better,” and we’re in total agreement on that.
At shootaround today the Thunder seemed to be in as good a mood as you could expect and to a man they said they’re still plenty confident.
“We’re a resilient group of guys who’ve been in this situation before,” Durant pointed out.
The Thunder have lost the first game of both playoff series they’ve had with the Spurs, in fact they’ve lost both the first and second games of both those series. In 2012 they roared back to win four straight and move on to the NBA Finals. In 2014 they stretched the series out to six games before losing.
But none of those four losses were as bad a beatdown as what the Thunder went through on Saturday night, their worst playoff loss ever on a combined 11-for-34 shooting night for Durant and Westbrook.
Durant seemed confident and determined when speaking to the media today.
“We gotta be aggressive from the beginning we can’t ease into the game we can’t relax. We gotta run our stuff hard, defend hard and we can’t wait to do that.”
Sounding a little like KD has been paying more attention to that game film from Saturday night.
“They came out harder than we did (Saturday night) that not saying we didn’t come out hard they just hit us with the first punch, so we gotta be ready.”
And he apparently thinks he and his team will be.
“At practices and shootarounds guys have been really locked in so It’s just a matter of us going out there and executing.”
After shootaround today Donovan said OKC’s pick-and-roll coverage especially has to be better tonight than Saturday when, frankly it was non-existent.
“Your pick-and-roll coverage always starts at the point of attack," he said. "It starts with the guy on the ball and the guy that’s guarding the screen and we’ve gotta do that at a better level and a higher level. Look they’re a good team so it’s not gonna be perfect all the time but I think we can do a better job than we did.”
The Thunder have a history, both in the playoffs and the regular season of bouncing back strong after a loss.
And that same history has shown the Thunder don’t even have to win the bounce back game in order to ultimately win the series.
They don’t have to win tonight either, this is not a “must win” game but it is a “gotta play a whole lot better” game.
It is a game in which the Thunder need to be competitive and hang close to the Spurs because if they can’t at least do that tonight it’s hard to believe how they can change things around enough to actually beat San Antonio when they really have to Friday and Sunday back home in Oklahoma City.
Tonight's game is a late start, tipping off at about 8:40 right after Game 1 of the Cleveland-Atlanta series in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Both games will be shown exclusively on TNT.