SEEKING A SPLIT
After blowing a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead Sunday, the Thunder will try to salvage a split in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals in Game 2 on Tuesday.
If the Thunder can win Tuesday it will snatch home-court advantage from the Spurs, with Games 3 and 4 scheduled to be played inside Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday and Saturday.
“That’s what we came in here for, to try to get a ‘W,’” said Kevin Durant. “We wanted to get two, but unfortunately we didn’t do that (Sunday) night. So we’re going to try to get one (Tuesday) and try to go back home.”
Despite the Spurs’ current 10-game home winning streak, James Harden said the Thunder is confident after taking a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter Sunday night.
“We feel very confident in what we do and our system,” Harden said. “That’s going to get us over the hump. The second game, we just got to stick to doing what we do, being aggressive and taking them off their spots on the defensive end.”
ROLE PLAYERS SHINE
Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison combined to score 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting with 12 rebounds, four assists and only two turnovers in Game 1.
It was one of the best developments for the Thunder on Sunday. But with OKC unable to take advantage of its role players’ effectiveness, the question is whether they will be able to reproduce such a solid combined performance on the road?
“Just be who we are. Do the things that we’re capable of doing to help our team win,” Fisher said when asked what it would take. “That’s by coming in, playing hard, being aggressive, really setting the tone on the defensive end.
“When shot opportunities come, because we know they will; teams are going to take away a lot of things from Kevin and Russell (Westbrook) and James, we have to be ready to make plays and make shots. We’re going to have some of those opportunities (Tuesday) night again, as well as for the rest of this series and it’s our job to be ready to make it.”
Resiliency has been a word associated with the Thunder all season, and rightfully so.
Oklahoma City is 17-3 after a loss, which includes the postseason.
But following a three-point loss Sunday night, Game 2 against San Antonio is expected to be a different beast, one that will challenge the Thunder’s bounce-back ability.
“It’s definitely going to be tougher, especially on the road,” said Westbrook. “But this is a tough team and hopefully we can come out with the same mind-set.”
Durant said he didn’t think the playoff setting would make it any tougher to bounce back.
“We just got to be ready. I think we will be,” Durant said. “We played hard. We fought all game last game. But we got to keep it up. Of course we can make some adjustments here and there. But I believe in our coaches and I think they’re going to do the right thing as far as trying to make us better. We’re all confident. We’re all keeping our heads up. Of course, a Game 1 loss, we can’t get too down on ourselves. We just got to keep fighting.”
HARDEN HELD WITHOUT A FOUL SHOT
For the first time this season, Harden on Sunday night did not attempt a free throw.
Harden averaged a career-high six free throws a game in the regular season, but couldn’t find his way to the foul line in Game 1 despite playing 31 minutes.
“I didn’t go strong enough to the basket,” Harden said. “I didn’t force them to make calls. I just got to be ready, be ready to stay in attack mode, stay aggressive and getting to the rim and getting to the line.”
As a rookie in 2009-10, Harden had 19 games, including three times in the playoffs, in which he did not attempt a free throw. Last year, Harden did not attempt a free throw only eight times, including twice in the playoffs.