For the past three seasons, Thunder coach Scott Brooks has been the envy of many in his profession, getting to command a group widely viewed as the league's future.
At this particular moment, however, few coaches wish they were Brooks.
OKC is down 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals against San Antonio, a team that has won 20 straight games, with half of those victories coming in the postseason. The Spurs haven't lost since April 11 and have won 31 of 33 dating back to March 21.
A fatigued Brooks remains undeterred.
“This is what you live for, as a player, as a coach,” Brooks said Wednesday after his team met to chat and not to practice or break down film. “As I told (my players), 'There are 26 other teams who would love to be in this position right now, and if you don't look at it that way, you're missing the boat.' It's a great opportunity. Is it a very difficult challenge ahead? Absolutely. We're playing against the best team in basketball.”
What can Brooks do to stop the bleeding in Game 3, which begins at 8 p.m. Thursday at Chesapeake Energy Arena?
Some questions you might be asking:
Why not have Thabo Sefolosha defend Tony Parker, a one-man wrecking crew averaging 26.0 points, 7.0 assists, 5.5 rebounds and shooting 61.1 percent from the field so far in the series?
The 6-foot-7 Sefolosha has a 7-foot wingspan and is one of the league's premier one-on-one defenders. Trouble is, defending the pick-and-roll is anything but one-on-one. It's part-rumba, part-rumble and the Spurs probably run it 60-70 times a game.
Having Sefolosha defend out front means little when he constantly has to fight through screens. His length is better served defending passing lanes rather than chasing Parker around the mulberry bush.
Part of the Thunder's problem has been a lack of communication. Teammates must verbally warn point guard Russell Westbrook when a pick is coming (that's you, Serge Ibaka).
And by the way, Parker is the best point guard in the NBA. He's better than Westbrook, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and any other name you care to throw out there.
With the proper combination — such as Parker and Hall of Fame teammate Tim Duncan — the pick-and-roll can frequently be impossible to defend, which is why the attack has become the cornerstone of teams gifted with an able point guard.
“It's a pick-and-roll league, and it's your ability to guard the pick-and-roll, and impact the ball, and keep teams from getting penetration that really determine your success,” said Thunder reserve point guard Derek Fisher, who is in his 16th season. “By nature, the pick-and-roll is two guys against one. So regardless how good a defender you are by yourself, (when) someone comes and sets a pick on you, it's putting you at a disadvantage.