“Anybody, after the first two games in San Antonio, was thinking, we need to do a better job,” Ibaka said. “Everybody. Better job to stop the ball, better job to helping. To go contest some shots. Everybody. Not just Perk. Also me. I was thinking, I need to do a better job.”
Said Sefolosha, “Coming off a loss like we did in San Antonio, two losses, we really wanted to redeem ourself and just play better. Bottom line, we had to play better,”
Brooks made some solid adjustments. Thabo onto Parker. The switches. The Thunder found a crack in the Spurs' offense. Long arms cut down on the passing lanes; willing feet cut down on the driving lanes. Parker and Ginobili, who took turns at spectacular down in San Antonio, largely were ineffective in OKC.
But the biggest Thunder change was in zeal. The Thunder played with fanatical effort. Took off no possessions. The Thunder did not play mistake-free. The Spurs found some open shots. The Spurs made some tough shots. But by game's end, the Thunder had reversed the feeling. Pride returned to Big Blue.
And so when Perkins made a defensive stop in the first quarter, that pride bellowed. He glared at the TNT crew and snapped, “Talk about that!”
Nothing personal, Gran Torino said, “just emotions. You tend to watch games and kind of hear what people say every now and then, kind of light a fire up under you. That's all.”
Strategy is important. Emotions no less so.
“Very important,” said Perkins. “We want to win. We didn't play well the first two games. We just came out and played with more effort than last game. I just think we gotta do better job of playing with effort and trusting each other, and the rest will take care of itself.”
The Thunder needed more than victory in Game 3. It also needed pride restored. Both missions accomplished.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.