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A couple of days ago people weren’t only starting to jump off the Thunder bandwagon some of them were probably thinking of jumping off the Devon Tower…no more.
Thunder fans have renewed hope that this will indeed be the long series most envisioned rather than a quick sweep like some had started to fear after the first two games.
Thunder players and coaches knew this was coming, play harder and play better and good things will happen.
Center Kendrick Perkins, as prideful an individual as you will ever find, found himself digging deep to bring everything he had for Game 3 because he felt he didn’t do that for Game 2.
“I was just disappointed in my Game 2 performance as far as pick-and-roll defense and just being the defensive anchor that I’ve been all season so I just wanted to go out there and do what I needed to do, just try to stop they pick-and-roll.”
Stop it he did. The defensive effort brought by Perk and his teammates was outstanding, constantly pestering Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan.
Speaking of pestering, no bigger pest for the Spurs than Thabo Sefolosha, who when he wasn’t picking off passes and blocking shots he was draining 3-pointers on his way to a 19-point, six steal night.
“I couldn’t feel better right now,” he told a throng of reporters after Thunder practice today. Was it ther best game he’s played?
“It’s up there definitely,” but Sefolosha knows yesterday’s success can be fleeting, now it’a all about tomorrow night and that’s what today’s practice focused in on.
“Just seeing what we did well, what worked for us and what we can improve on.”
The Thunder attacked the pick-and-roll vigorously and switched up frequently on defense. Some of it was by design and some of it was dictated by how far the shot clock had ticked down but the switching was almost always called as an audible by the big guys, Perkins, or Ibaka or Collison.
“We let the big call it,” Sefolosha said, “whenever they felt like switching would be an option they called it and they did a great job.”
Perkins switched onto both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili at times and relished the challenge.
“I was just in the flow of the game, I can’t do it all the time (switching onto a guard) but one or two possessions a game, I don’t think they like that matchup.”
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks plays down any tweaks to the OKC game plan, whether it was playing Sefolosha on Tony Parker more than usual or switching up other defensive assignments more often. He explains last night’s win very simply.
“We just played well,” he said, “I don’t know we played hard, we played defense. We switched some but we stuck with a lot of our coverages and we’ll see what it does tomorrow.”
Whether that means Brooks will go with a similar game plan, or not, he wouldn’t say, “not sure what we’re gonna do at the moment but obviously we have all this in our pocket.”
Brooks then pointed out what has become evident during the playoffs.
“We have a team that can play different ways, we can play big, small, we can play fast, we can play slow, we can play many ways.”
But no matter what strategies are used a couple of things have to be constant and above all else have to be there every single time.
“We have to play hard and we have to play well,” the coach said.
His team accomplished both Thursday night and now the challenge is to do the same thing Saturday night so that all the positives from Game 3 don’t get erased by the end of Game 4.