The Thunder are still trying to figure out what type of team they are without Russell Westbrook, who is out for the rest of the postseason. But that doesn’t change coach Scott Brooks’ emphasis on playing hard and smart on both ends of the court.
“We’re working through some things, but we all know how to play defense,” Brooks said. “That doesn’t change, no matter who you put on the floor. We know how to play offensive basketball. ... We’ve always believed in moving the ball and sharing the ball.”
By not putting Houston away when they had the chance, the Thunder now face a Rockets squad that has tasted postseason victory and will want more of it. The fact that they did it while James Harden had a subpar outing should give them even more confidence that they can come into Oklahoma City and steal another win.
“I told our guys before the game, ‘One thing about our team, we’re not going to lay down,’” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “They fought all year long.”
Even though the Thunder are playing short-handed, Brooks and Durant have not eased up on expectations. They want to put the Rockets away tonight and get ready for the next round.
“As players, coaches and as an organization, we’re very prideful in what we do,” Brooks said. “We know that we’re in a pretty good position. We won our two home games, went down there and split, and we have a chance for another game where we can close out the series.”
To do that, Durant is going to need help on the offensive end, and Oklahoma City’s defense will have to find a way to put the brakes on Chandler Parsons and the Rockets’ 3-point shooting. Most importantly, they have to stay in attack mode throughout the entire game.