Durant: "We Gotta Throw The First Punch"

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

The Thunder have a chance to do something tonight almost no one thought they could do...closeout the Golden State Warriors in five games.

Kevin Durant, who has said closeout games are always the hardest to play in series, told reporters in the Bay Area today “we gotta throw the first punch.”

You figure he was speaking figuratively, not literally, but given the things that have happened in this series so far, maybe not.

Since the Thunder routed the Warriors the last two games Durant and his teammates may be thinking get off to a fast start, don’t let the Warriors think they have much of a chance and maybe they won’t have.

But KD also said he knows it won’t be easy.

“This team is gonna come out and play extremely hard, so we gotta throw the first punch, it’s gonna be a battle all night.”

Billy Donovan, who so far during this playoff run in his rookie NBA season has appeared to outcoach Rick Carlisle, Gregg Popovich and now Steve Kerr, also expects nothing will be easy on the floor inside Oracle Arena.

“They are a team that at home is great in transition,” he said, “so we have to put a premium on things tonight like our ability to take care of the basketball, our ability to rebound the basketball, our ability to communicate and defend in a loud environment.”

The sound of the crowd isn’t the only noise the Thunder need to try their best to ignore. They also can’t afford to listen to all the people (including me) writing and talking about how well they’re playing, how good the defense has been, how now the Thunder appear to be the best team in basketball and how there’s no way they can lose this series at this point.

“I think a lot of times you can get caught up with things surrounding the game, but the reality is what we have control over is what’s gonna take place between the lines and how well we can concentrate collectively as a group on the things that we need to do.”

Durant is just 27 but he’s a playoff veteran, he’s seen teams (including his own) falter in that closeout game and fumble away an opportunity to end a series and he doesn’t want that to happen tonight.

“We have a 3-1 lead but we’ve seen teams come back from 3-1 down and go on to win the series. So we have to stay in the moment and not worry or think about anything else but we we need to do tonight.”

It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out, what adjustments are made and then countered. Golden State’s season is on the line tonight so if anyone makes a drastic move it will likely be Kerr, throwing out almost anything, maybe a super-small lineup?

The Warriors looked like they had already lost the series the way they responded to questions after Game 4. You would have to think those thoughts are out of their minds now and they have a plan in place.

You can also bet Billy D and his staff are ready the counter moves and maybe since Durant was talking so  much about taking it to the Warriors early maybe Donovan has yet another surprise coming for the defending champs.

Like I said, fascinating.

Win or lose the Thunder will be flying back home tonight and team officials said they expected to be back at the general aviation terminal at Will Rogers World Airport around 2:30am. Hundreds of Thunder fans are sure to greet them and will be hoping to see a Western Conference Championship trophy’

Tipoff is set for 8 o’clock Oklahoma time on TNT. Should the Thunder lose tonight, Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals will be Saturday evening at The Peake.


Randy RennerComment