NBA Finals: Thunder not comfortable with early and late-game habits

Oklahoma City has a tendency to trail by double-digits, and then makes spectacular comebacks to win. Players prefer to come out hot — and stay hot.
by Ryan Aber Published: June 13, 2012

Down 13 points early in the second quarter of Tuesday's Game 1 of the NBA Finals — the first finals game for most of the Thunder regulars — there wasn't anything approaching panic.

It's become a routine for the Thunder.

Tuesday, for the fourth time in these playoffs — once in each of their postseason series' — the Thunder has been down by 13 or more points and come back to win.

“We just do a good job of sticking with the game plan and pulling for each other and lifting guys up,” veteran Kendrick Perkins said. “You're not going to be perfect all the time.”

It's not a habit the Thunder are completely comfortable with — many of the players spoke Wednesday of the need to get off to a better start in Thursday's Game 2 — but it's something Oklahoma City has in its bag when needed.

The easy answer for why would seem to be Kevin Durant's play down the stretch.

But in those games, it hasn't been Durant taking over as much as the way the Thunder have played all around, especially defensively, in the fourth quarter.

“Some guys aren't going to score the ball particularly well certain nights, but they're diving on the floor for loose balls and getting 10 rebounds or a couple steals or whatever it takes,” James Harden said. “That's the mindset that each and every guy on this team has.”

Durant scored 17 in the fourth quarter in Game 1, but in the other three big comebacks, he averaged less than eight points per game in the fourth.

The big change has come defensively in those games, where the opposition has gone from averaging more than 26 points per quarter in the first three quarters of those games to averaging less than 19 in the fourth.

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