Tahlequah Daily Press


May 21, 2014

Thunder in a tight jam again this postseason

Oklahoma City aims to even Western Conference finals at 1-1 with Game 2 on Wednesday

Just like in the movies, there is good news and bad news for the Oklahoma City Thunder coming out of their Game 1 loss to the San Antonio Spurs Monday.

The good news is they have been in this position before. It was just a couple of weeks ago they lost with the exact same 122-105 scoreline to the L.A. Clippers to start off the Western Conference Semifinals. At the time, it looked like the Thunder would have no answer for red-hot Clippers.

Yet, Oklahoma City came back to win in six games and advance.

“We’ll do a better job. We will,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We take pride in bouncing back. It’s one game. If it’s the NCAA Tournament, we’re not feeling good about ourselves going to class (today). Fortunately, for us, it’s the best of seven, first to four. We’ve got to regroup, get to get better next game.”

The bad news is this Spurs team is nothing like the Clippers. The trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are the all-time leaders in playoff games played for a trio. So, they will not be as susceptible to the emotional roller coaster of the postseason that caught L.A. sleeping at times.

“We played. We did what we always do,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Sometimes, it worked to our advantage. Sometimes it didn’t, but all in all, at this point in the season you’ve got to be who you are. You can’t really change your stripes.”

Along with the good and bad news for the Thunder, they still have the worst news to deal with: Finding an answer to not having Serge Ibaka in the lineup. San Antonio scored 66 points in the paint and shot 57 percent from the field, both season highs in ITS matchups with Oklahoma City.

The only difference is that there was no 6-10, athletic power forward guarding the rim for the Thunder, and as Brooks reiterated, there won’t be the rest of the postseason.

“Contrary to what San Antonio was thinking, he’s not coming back,” Brooks said. “He’s not coming though those doors.”

The main benefactor to the missing Ibaka problem was Duncan. The future hall of famer scored 27 points and had his way with every defender Oklahoma City put on him. From Kendrick Perkins to Nick Collison to Kevin Durant, he turned back the clock and owned the paint.

“I don’t know if it was that easy, but we were taking what we were given,” the understated Duncan said. “We knew being able to get into the middle and attack a little more than we have, that’s kind of what’s been there historically against them. And we were just able to make some shots tonight.”

Offensively, the Thunder had solid numbers. They shot 46 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range on their way to scoring 105 points, but they were out-rebounded by three and turned the ball over 16 times.

“It’s just to keep your foot on the gas,” Westbrook said. “We don’t have to be perfect, we just have to do whatever we need to do to get it done. There are going to be times where they are going to make plays. There are going to be times where we make plays. We just have to continue to stay with it.”

Yet, it’s still to the team’s dissatisfaction in their overall defensive output that takes precedent.

“Defensively, that’s where everything starts for us,” Reggie Jackson said. “We get in our shell, we get in our coverages and lock up individually and that generates our offense. We’re an athletic team, a team that likes to get in the open floor. But it’s kind of hard to get in the open floor when the other team just continues to score and the ball is going out of bounds.”

The Thunder still firmly say they have the players in their locker room to fix the problems and win the series. One person who knows they have to raise their game is the league MVP.

Even though he had a game-high 28 points along with 9 rebounds and five assists, Durant expects more out of himself.

“We know that we have to be better in some areas of the game and we also know we can improve early in the game,” Durant said. “Staying positive is definitely important for us. As a leader, I have to come back and encourage my guys but also let them know what we have to do better at the same time. I have another level I have to go to in order for us to get this thing done.”

San Antonio 1, Oklahoma City 0

Monday, May 19: San Antonio 122, Oklahoma City 105

Wednesday, May 21: Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 9 p.m.

Sunday, May 25: San Antonio at Oklahoma City, 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 27: San Antonio at Oklahoma City, 9 p.m.

x-Thursday, May 29: Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 9 p.m.

x-Saturday, May 31: San Antonio at Oklahoma City, 8:30 p.m.

x-Monday, June 2: Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 9 p.m.

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