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The Oklahoma City Thunder are disappointed but not discouraged as they try to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole in their Western Conference Finals series against San Antonio.
It’s a daunting task that few teams and players have successfully completed, much more daunting than Thunder head coach Scott Brooks even realized when he talked with reporters today, “what is the stat? Like 70 percent or 80 percent (of teams down 0-2 go one to lose the series), higher than that?”
Um yes, it is. 94 percent of teams that win the first two games go on to win the series.
“Okay so we have a 6 percent chance, is that right? I don’t think it’s 94 percent is it?” Well if you wanna get really technical it’s actually 94.3 percent, “okay so we still have a chance,” the coach went on, ever the optimist, “it’s the first team to four but all we’re focusing on is one game.”
You can’t think about winning four in a row or four out of five as the Thunder must do if they’re going to play in The Finals.
It’s just this next game.
That’s all you’re focusing in on.
“You only focus on the game at hand and tomorrow night’s game is the most important game,” Brooks preached, “that’s what we’ve done all year is taking the one game at a time approach.”
Since only 5.7 percent of teams down 0-2 in the playoffs go on to win the series there are only a few players and coaches in the league who have experienced that thrill and one of them plays for the Thunder.
Derek Fisher was a member of the 2005 Lakers squad that trailed, of all teams San Antonio, 2-0 in the playoffs and came back to win it.
Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman asked him what do you do, besides take it one game at a time, to dig yourself out of that hole?
“Well you kinda took away my answer there,” Fisher said smiling, “because that’s what I was gonna say, that’s truly what we did we did not assume that we would win four games in row which is basically what we ended up doing. We really did just focus in on winning Game 3 and then Game 3 turned into an ability to understand what it would take to win the next game and you just keep playing from there.”
The Thunder did not hold a full practice today. The team met, watched film and went over some things they can tweak a little and some things they can do better.
Guard James Harden said he didn’t look at the game tape and think, ‘wow we did everything as good as we can and they still beat us.’
“No not even close. We had spurts where we played very good basketball and then we had spurts where the ball just stopped on offense,” Harden said, “and then on defense we gave them these layups and easy 3-pointers and that’s how they go on their runs. We just have to play better.”
The Spurs don’t just challenge you physically a big part of their game is the mental aspect, forcing other teams to think their way out of whatever problem they’re facing.
“They don’t stop so we can’t either. We can’t allow a lack of focus to let things slip away,” Harden finished.
Brooks wouldn’t get into specifics but he did admit, “we’re gonna make a few adjustments, but whatever we do we’re gonna have to do it with incredible effort.”
Derek Fisher, who lived to tell about surviving an 0-2 start to a playoff series, said it often comes down to one simple thing.
“You can talk about X’s and O’s and adjustments and rotations and all those things but at the end of the day, you just have to want it and how you define that, how you lay that out as a game plan I don’t know, but when you want it bad enough you figure it out and we have to want it bad enough come tomorrow night to figure it out.”
Randy Renner has covered Oklahoma sports for 30 years and contributes to NBA.com.