What a difference a day, and a Game 1 win, makes.
When the Thunder took the floor to practice Wednesday, gone was the anxiety about playing in their first NBA Finals. Gone were the questions about how they’d react, how they’d play, how they’d respond. Gone was the wondering about experience, the fascination with youth, the chatter about individual matchups.
It was mostly just back to basketball.
Had Game 1 gone differently, OKC’s media session surely would’ve as well. The tone would’ve been much different, the feel completely altered. But with a 1-0 lead in The Finals, the Thunder were able to relax a bit and release themselves from all that noise about how they’d handle it.
“I tried to approach it as a regular game,” Kevin Durant said of Game 1. “I think all the stuff before the game kind of made me a little nervous, the intros and all the media here, so many people here. I never seen this many people here in Oklahoma City before at a basketball game. So it’s a little different. But you got used to it once the ball is tipped. It goes back to when you’re a kid playing a game, just playing. All that stuff is out of the way.”
I said it last night, but it’s completely understandable for the Thunder to have had some serious nerves going into that game. It was a moment they’ve all been dreaming of, something they’ve been working and playing for their whole lives. If they weren’t nervous, something was wrong. And I think it says something about their mental toughness and team character to be able to battle through that tightness, hang in the game and then take it over when it mattered. That’s guts, and some legitimate grit.
But nobody needs to tell you, nor the team, that it’s merely a win and it’ll largely be for not unless the Thunder follow it up in Game 2. A 2-0 lead on the series is a necessity, especially with three games looming in Miami. Head to South Beach tied 1-1 and you face the harsh possible reality of not returning home.
“We definitely have more to give,” said Russell Westbrook. “I just think we can start off the game playing a lot harder defensively, and I think if we start the game off playing a lot harder, you can see what this team can bring to the table and what we can do for a 48 minute game.”
Some other notes and quotes:
- Westbrook was asked about his fashion quite extensively. First, where he buys them. “I buy them a lot of different places. I can’t really tell you, but I buy them a lot of different places … All different places. Barneys, Saks Fifth, everywhere.”
- Then about the glasses: “No, I’ve been wearing glasses since I’ve been in the league. I think everybody else just started wearing them now.” Reporter: So you’re claiming to have started — “Hey, I ain’t saying nothing, but I’m just saying. (Laughter).”
- If red is his favorite color: “No, red is not my favorite color, but I have a lot of variety of different colored glasses at the house.”
- LeBron was asked about Westbrook kind of taking credit for starting the glasses trend. His response: “No, that’s not right … There’s no stories behind it. You know, it’s a look, it’s a fashion thing. But he absolutely didn’t start it.”
- Wade took some veiled shots at OKC when talking about Durant: “Sometimes it’s where you’re at. If he was in Los Angeles, Chicago, somewhere, it would be a little different. Being in Oklahoma kind of dims his light a little bit, not him on the basketball court but him off the court. There’s not a lot of exciting things going on out here.”
- Derek Fisher responding to Chris Bosh’s statements about OKC’s home court: “I don’t know, I’m not measuring how loud it is in the building. I think Chris Bosh is right in terms of it was average because the fans are like this every night. So yeah, it was average because in November, December, January, February, march and April, the fans are the same way in those months as they were last night.”
- Perk on that topic: “Well to be honest with you, it really doesn’t matter how they feel. It’s how we feel. I think we have the best fans in the world, and at the end of the day, Chris Bosh is just an opinion.”
- KD was asked about Shane Battier using that move putting a hand over Durant’s face when he takes a shot. “I absolutely hate it,” Durant said. “But I’ve gotten used to it over the years playing Shane, ever since he was in Houston. Last year in the Playoffs against Memphis. He does it a lot. You’ve just got to be disciplined on your shot, and I think shooting so many shots, you know once you kind of let loose, you know where it’s going to go.”
- KD on supposedly being a bit passive early in games: “I don’t want to sound like a jerk or anything, but I really don’t care what people say outside the locker room, outside of this organization what I need to do or what I didn’t do. I really don’t care. You know, I’m a guy that lets the game come to me but is also aggressive at the same time. I know when to take shots, when to make the right play. People can say this and that. I learn to just tune it out and just play my game.”
- Durant was asked about scoring 66 at Rucker Park: “Only thing I remember was that everybody ran on the court. That’s probably one of the best moments I’ve had so far in my life, playing at the mecca of basketball in New York City, and I hit a few shots then. It felt like everybody just swarmed me so quickly, man, and it was just a fun moment for me and something I’m always going to remember.”
- A reporter was asking LeBron a question and obviously had a brain cramp because instead of stating his name and affiliation, said, “LeBron James…” before stopping and starting over with his name and affiliation.
- Dwayne Wade was asked how he can be more aggressive and he answered, “Just try and be more aggressive.” Somewhere James Harden is nodding.