Before Ibaka’s injury was announced, nine of 16 ESPN.com writers picked the Thunder to win the series. After the announcement that number dipped to three.
Brooks, however, doesn’t think the task of keeping his team focused and not caught up in feeding into the negativity will be difficult.
“I think that’s the easy thing with our group. We always have a focus of staying in the moment and staying within our team,” Brooks said. “Don’t worry about what people are saying about our team. That has no bearing on how we feel about ourselves or how we play … We’re going to do everything within our power to play a good basketball game Monday night in San Antonio. We have 48 minutes to prove we are a better team Monday night.”
Brooks declined to disclose who would start in place of Ibaka. He rattled off nearly every player’s name who’s not a starter, saying, perhaps only half-jokingly, that only Grant Jerrett isn’t an option. But Ibaka’s replacement most likely will be Collison or second-year forward Perry Jones III, who started the lone game Ibaka missed this season due to illness.
“We have guys that are going to get opportunities to play,” Brooks said. “We don’t necessarily have the shot-blocker that Serge is, but we have guys that can help us defensively; taking charge, getting into position. Like I said, we have enough to win.”
The Thunder seems to truly believe that.
Even if most everybody else is counting OKC out.
“It ain’t creeping in with us, just people on the outside talking,” said Kendrick Perkins. “We’re confident in the guys we got. Obviously we gonna miss Serge, but one thing about us, we like being counted out. Then after Game 1, we like hearing what y’all say next.”