Coach Scott Brooks was talking about the Lakers series after practice Monday morning, and as is almost always the case with everything Thunder, the mood was all-business.
"We always felt that we were going to be in this series and that the series was going to go long,” Brooks said. "We weren’t thinking that we would sweep them.” A few reporters laughed immediately, but not enough to please Brooks. "That was a joke,” Brooks said, after which everybody laughed. Before Brooks’ comedy act could continue, the interview session was cut short. "But I’m not finished,” Brooks said, feigning frustration. See there, those who play and coach for the Thunder actually do have fun. A team ridiculously mature beyond its years knows how to kid around. Nearly every Thunder practice ends with some sort of free-spirited shooting contest — a game of H-O-R-S-E; free-throw competitions; young vs. old; young vs. younger. Monday’s practice ended with a half-court shooting contest. Etan Thomas hit the game-winner. "You’ve got to take the edge off everything, and coach Brooks is great like that,” said point guard Kevin Ollie, in his 13th season and the team’s elder statesman at age 37. "He’s got a witty sense of humor. He doesn’t use it a lot, but when he does it’s very funny and it relaxes us.” Amid all good news this season — a 50-32 regular-season record and now a 2-2 tie in a best-of-7 opening series against the world champion Lakers — Thunder players and coaches somehow have remained on an even-keel. Their post-game remarks at the beginning of this season aren’t a whole lot different than they are entering Game 5 tonight inside the Staples Center. The Thunder’s pulse has been steady, whether it lost at Indiana by 20 or won at Dallas to clinch a playoff spot. The goal is for that heart rate to remain the same tonight in Los Angeles and every day until the season officially ends. Thunder hearts admittedly raced in Games 3 and 4 inside the Ford Center, however. "It’s hard not to, with that crowd,” Brooks said. "Game 3 was probably as loud as I’ve heard anything. It was hard not to get too high, including me ... I’m not a computer.” Scott Brooks 2.0 said he was too emotional as a player until Philadelphia coach Jim Lynam offered some advice during Brooks’ second NBA season (1989-90). "I realized I can’t change after every good game and every bad game,” Brooks said.