Sun, sand, stars. Yep, Los Angeles has it all and no one in the Thunder organization wants any part of going back there till sometime next season.
They can avoid that fate by closing out the Lakers tonight inside Chesapeake Energy Arena and that is precisely what they plan to do.
“We know that it is always tough to close out a team, especially one that has Championship DNA and one that has a guy named Kobe on their team, he’s not gonna wanna give up and just give us the game,” said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.
However, the Lakers did exactly that (give up) when faced with elimination last season against Dallas. The Mavs blew out the Lakers. In fact the last two times L.A. has been faced with elimination in the playoffs they were blown out. Over their history when the Lakers started a playoff series down 0-2 they lost almost every one of them (2-17) so it would appear things are lining up for the Thunder.
Though Brooks is certainly not ready to chalk up a win tonight he doesn’t plan to change much of anything in how his team will play the Lakers.
“I think we just stick with our game plan, with what we’ve done,” he said, “and just get better at it. We’ll make a few adjustments, nothing major because I don’t think you need to do that, not because we’re up 3-1 but because I think you have to stick with what you do well and what’s worked to put you in this position.”
At least Brooks will not have to make any adjustments to his starting lineup. Both Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins have been dealing with strained hip muscles. Perk’s injury occurred back in the Dallas series and Russ slipped on the Staples Center floor on Saturday night. Brooks says both players were full go at this morning’s shoot-around.
“Yes everybody’s good, healthy going into tonight, we’re ready to go.”
Even though this is a close-out game the coaching staff and players will not change their approach as they get ready for tonight’s tip-off.
“I don’t think we’re gonna change our focus or our mentality,” Brooks said, “it’s always been take care of the game tonight and don’t worry about anything else. Play in the moment. When you’re in that other situation (the one the Lakers are staring at) it’s either you win or you go home and I’m sure they’re gonna come out and give us their best shot. They’ve got the experience they’ve got the Championship background and nobody wants to end their season tonight.”
The Thunder however, would LOVE to end this series tonight because like we said at the beginning despite all the sun, sand and stars of LA-LA Land no one in the Thunder organization wants to fly back there anytime soon.
- The Thunder has produced a turnover turnaround in the playoffs. During the regular season OKC led the league by averaging 16.3 givebacks a game. In the playoffs that number is down to 10.5 and that’s the best in the league. During this series with the Lakers the number is even better as the Thunder has averaged just 8.3 turnovers a game.
- No doubt now that Kevin Durant is King Clutch in the NBA. In the last 24 seconds of close games (five points) KD is 10-for-23 (43.7 percent) on potential game-tying or game-winning shots. That’s by far the best in the NBA. Derrick Rose and Chris Paul are second with five.
- The Thunder is holding playoff opponents to just 24 percent shooting in crunch time of close games.
Randy Renner has covered Oklahoma sports for 30 years and contributes to NBA.com.