By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – Russell Westbrook wasn’t having it. Even though his Oklahoma City Thunder had pulled off a controversial win in San Antonio Monday to even the Western Conference semifinal series, the all-star point guard wasn’t about to let his team rest on the accomplishment.
“We just want to come back and be focused. You can’t be a happy team,” Westbrook warned. “Happy teams always get beat.”
So it should suffice to say expect a focused team tonight in Game 3 when the Thunder host the Spurs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.
After taking home-court advantage from San Antonio, the Thunder are in no hurry to give it back by having a letdown in Game 3.
“We didn’t do nothing but win a game,” Westbrook said. “We got to get our minds and our bodies right for Game 3. They’re a great team, a team with many championships and they know how to respond after losses. We have to be ready to play.”
There are many who believe the Thunder stole Game after referees missed several calls on the final two minutes of the contest, including an elbow from Dion Waiters on Manu Ginobili that cleared room for him to throw the ball in on an out-of-bounds play.
“We had to pull it out, we had to find a way, just scrap, do whatever, just get the win,” Waiters said. “We got the win, that’s all I care about.”
While the Spurs said all the right things after the game, the Thunder are expecting San Antonio to come in just as focused of a mood as they are by game-time.
But more importantly for Oklahoma City, they have to find an answer for the Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge. In two games, he’s made 33 of 44 shots from the field and has torched the Thunder defense by himself.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan says his team will use a variety of defenses to try and slow down Aldridge. But the bulk of the work will continue to fall on the shoulders of Serge Ibaka andSteven Adams playing him one-on-one.
“But I do think we have to double-team him in the right situations and try to maybe keep him off balance a little bit,” Donovan said. “But you’ve got Patty Mills out there, you have Kawhi Leonard out there, you’ve got Danny Green out there. You can start taking (Aldridge) away and all of a sudden it opens up threes, drives and a lot of other things. So you really have to make good decisions about where your help is coming from and when it’s coming.”
As they showed in Game 2, regardless of what Aldridge does or anyone on the Spurs, the Thunder say the players they have to focus the most on are themselves.
“I knew what type of group we were,” Kevin Durant said. “I’m not saying after Game 1 we guaranteed we were going to win Game 2. But we knew we had to come out there and play a lot better, with a lot more energy, with a lot more intensity, a lot more passion. Guys played with passion all night. Everybody that was out there was playing for each other. The results showed.”