Saturday, 28 May 2016

INTEGRIS Game Day Report: Thunder vs. Golden State Warriors Game 6 – May 28, 2016


If the way the Thunder has carried itself in tense moments so far in this Western Conference Finals is any indication, the faithful in Chesapeake Energy Arena can feel strongly that Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club is prepared for the wars to come in Game 6.

Coming up just short of closing out the defending champion and 73-game winning Golden State Warriors in Game 5 out in Oakland was of course not the outcome the Thunder was looking for, but it played with composure, maximum effort and togetherness. As it gears up for this heavyweight slugfest of a Game 6 at home, the Thunder’s leadership recognizes the importance of maintaining that type of razor sharp focus, and dismissing any thoughts of the external circumstances of the series.

“I've been really pleased with our guys the way they've handled themselves and the way they've been composed and trying to move to the next play and move on to the next possession,” Donovan said.

“There are things in the game that we need to do better going into this next game. But we've got to play the 48 minutes,” Donovan explained. “That's really what it comes down to. You can get caught up in thinking about the future and what the results mean at the end of the game, but the bottom line is the result at the end of the game will happen, and what you don't want to do is be focused on the result and forget to do your job during the course of 48 minutes.”

There are concrete areas on the basketball court that the Thunder simply must execute upon in order to have success against this Warriors team. It’s been clear that the Warriors try to manipulate off-ball screening actions between guards like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to generate diving cuts to the rim or flare outs behind the three-point line. To handle those situations the Thunder has to recognize them, call them out and then utilize proper footwork to deter potential passes for open looks.

“It really is understanding positioning and what's happening,” Donovan explained. “All that stuff comes back and starts with communication. If communication's not good, it's really, really hard to get the technique down.”

“Early communication allows you to create the technique that you need to play specific screening and cutting actions in a particular way that helps you,” Donovan continued. “We've done a pretty good job during the series of trying to communicate and defend, and have given very, very good effort.”

Missed shots, the Thunder’s obvious number one goal on defense, lead directly to rebounding opportunities. Throughout the series, rebounding has been a bit of an indicator of team success, with the team who won the battle of the boards coming out victorious in each game. For the series, the Thunder is out-rebounding Golden State by six boards per game, and is averaging one more offensive rebound per game. The Warriors have still managed to rack up 10.4 offensive rebounds per game, a number that will have to be kept in check in Game 6 to prevent second chance points.

“From a rebounding perspective, it's got to be a collective effort by our group, and we've got to do a good job in that area,” Donovan said. “Last night they did a good job of generating some offensive rebounds and some second-chance points and some and one opportunities.”

On the offensive end, the Thunder needs to play with pace as much as possible. Getting its long, rangy athletes out into space has been the most effective way that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have been able to generate easy layups at the rim and to get complementary scorers like Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson, Steven Adams and Dion Waiters involved in the secondary break for catch and shoots or finishes in the paint. In the halfcourt, the Thunder has to maintain a disciplined approach of moving the ball, keeping the floor balanced and attacking the rim to draw help and generate fouls.

“Everybody's defense is built around help and support and rim protection, and building out the three-point line, and understanding and recognizing and reading defenses and making those kind of decisions help things,” Donovan pointed out.

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