After a fourth-quarter debacle Saturday at Cleveland, the Oklahoma City Thunder returned home and had a day off.
Players were given the day to enjoy Super Bowl Sunday and be with family and friends. But on Monday morning, it was back to work.
And Thunder coach Scott Brooks was all business.
At the team's morning shoot-around before facing the Dallas Mavericks later that night, Brooks kept his players at the team's practice facility more than an hour longer than normal, locked inside a plush theater room poring over what went wrong against the Cavs and how it would be fixed going forward.
Brooks never allowed the players to police themselves. The coach did all the talking, or “fussing,” according to Kendrick Perkins.
“It was just way past due,” Perkins said. “We needed that, just to be able to come home and sit down and just break down the whole Cleveland game and everybody just look at what we need to do better. Each guy just look at his own self and try to get better at doing his job on the pick-and-roll defense.”
The marathon meeting translated into a much-needed cakewalk over the Mavs.
Oklahoma City dominated Dallas, building a 27-point first half lead that ballooned to 33 before settling for a 21-point win. The Thunder held the Mavs to 41 percent shooting and shut down Dirk Nowitzki (10 points on 11 shots) before pulling the starters for the duration of the final period.
“We responded well,” said Kevin Durant, who shook off a rib injury to register his 10th double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. “But the toughest test is to see how we do the next game. It's easy to do it when (coach) gets on us the morning of the game. We got to see if we can sustain it and keep going the next game. So I'm looking forward to see how we respond against a good team.”
Golden State now comes to town as that good team.
The Warriors were 30-17 before Tuesday's game at Houston, good for fifth in the Western Conference. They had won four straight and seven of their past nine.
More significantly, the Warriors worked the Thunder in the last meeting between the teams, securing a 104-99 home win that only raised the red flag about the Thunder's defense a little more. At Tuesday's practice, the Thunder took time to shore up the holes that showed in the defense from that disappointing outing.
“The last time we played them, they killed us on their … pin-downs and stuff,” Perkins said. “So we did a lot of practicing on that and getting into guys and knowing how we're going to play it.”
Perkins said the team needs to be more physical.
Durant said the team needs to just play harder.
Brooks, apparently, said enough is enough. And on Monday, he again gave his guys the blueprint on how to be better.
“Sometimes we have a tendency to relax and just to rely on our offense,” Perkins said. “We just got to make sure that we know that we're a defensive team first. We got to come out and play hard and play with a lot of energy no matter who we play.”