SAN ANTONIO –Mood assessment at the Thunder’s practice Monday: agitated.
The Thunder knew exactly what had happened the night before in Game 1. And as they walked back on to AT&T Center’s floor again, it kind of sank in it seemed. They had let one get away. A nine-point fourth quarter lead seemed to set up the Thunder well to finish out Game 1. But things grinded to a halt and the Thunder couldn’t find points.
They kicked Monday’s practice off with an hour and a half film session, and you can be sure that fourth quarter was a major talking point.
“I think last night we were kind of all over the place in the fourth quarter,” said James Harden. “That caused some turnovers and some easy transition points for them.”
Harden played an uncharacteristic game, struggling from the floor, bulling over defenders for charges and not getting to the line. For the first time this season he didn’t attempt a free throw. In fact, the last two games against the Spurs, he’s only 0-1 from the line.
“I didn’t go strong enough to the basket,” he said. “I didn’t force them to make calls. I just got to be ready. Be ready to stay in attack mode, stay aggressive and get to the rim and get to the line.”
The Spurs deployed an interesting defensive tactic of trying to funnel OKC’s ballhandlers to the paint and let Tim Duncan protect the rim. The Thunder turned down midrange jumpers and attacked away, like you’re told to do. But they couldn’t finish around, over or through Duncan.
“We could get to the rim, we couldn’t finish,” said Kevin Durant. “It’s not like he was blocking all of our shots or contesting all of our shots. I missed a dunk, I missed a few layups, James missed a few, Russ missed a few. We’re going to keep going at these guys, keep trying to get to the paint, keep trying to get to the free throw line.”
But that’s one game lost and the Thunder need to bounce back quickly. They’ve been terrific at it this season going 16-3 after a loss, but this is the playoffs. It’s harder to do, right?
“I don’t think so,” Durant said. “We just got to be ready. I think we will be.
“We’re all confident, we’re all keeping our heads up. Of course Game 1 loss, we can’t get too down on ourselves, but we just got to keep fighting.”
A few practice notes:
- Scott Brooks on Stephen Jackson: “I thought he did a great job with Kevin. Kevin’s not an easy guy to guard. But he did a great job really getting into him and forcing him off his spots and not letting him get open looks and not letting him get easy catches. And then he makes the big shot.”
- The Thunder like to put the ball in Harden’s hands late in games, but in Game 1 tried to isolate Durant more. “I just tried to get the ball in my hands and make a play,” Durant said. “Spurs do a good job of knowing your plays and trying to take you out of them, but we play random basketball, drive and kick basketball. Just try and make plays.”
- Harden said the Thunder’s early fourth quarter foul trouble contributed to their defensive breakdowns: “Little bit. I think early in the fourth we got into the bonus so we were a little timid to touch him and be aggressive like we normally would.”
- Russell Westbrook, who doesn’t have a sterling relationship with the media to begin with, didn’t make any new friends today. With a large horde of reporters and cameras waiting, instead of walking to the spot kind of carved out for him in the middle (where all the other players had spoke), Westbrook stopped on the outside of the circle and make the media and cameras turn to him. It caused quite the scramble as cameramen stumbled and fell over each other trying to adjust to the new positioning.
- Some kid from the Disney channel was at practice filming different things with players. He was maybe the most annoying person I’ve ever seen. He wanted to make a 3 with Durant standing next to him and fired line drives at the rim. KD took the ball and mimicked him saying, “Look like Maz,” meaning assistant coach Maz Trakh. Royal Ivey found this hilarious.
- Harden was asked if he feels like he has to outduel Manu Ginobili: “Sometimes, yeah. I did that in the Dallas series with Terry. And they got a lot of players that score off the bench, but the main player obviously is Ginobili. I just got to be better individually. Defensively, I think offensively stay in attack mode but defensively be better and be more physical and aggressive.”
- Harden was asked if he takes something from the fact the Thunder were in the game despite him and Westbrook not playing well: “Definitely. We went up 10 in the third quarter with me and Russell not scoring the ball.”
- Not much talk about changing up rotations or lineups. Thabo was a +11 while Serge Ibaka was a +9. Scott Brooks doesn’t like to air out his thoughts, but I’m sure during that film session he paid close attention to those two.
- Eric Maynor was out on the floor shooting some jumper. Nice to see that.
- Like I said, the Thunder were definitely annoyed with the fact they had lost the night before. I don’t know how to read that. It wasn’t like they were all eager and excited about bouncing back. It was like they were pissed. Maybe that’s a good thing.