The Thunder know their energy level is key to win two-straight games against the Spurs to advance to the NBA Finals.
Soobum Im / USA TODAY Sports
By Andrew GilmanFOX Sports Southwest
OKLAHOMA CITY - Manu Ginobili talked about it Thursday night after Game 5.
Scott Brooks said it Friday afternoon after practice.
So did Kevin Durant.
All of them talked about energy. None of them talked X's and O's.
So, if this series has come down to something immeasurable and something not quantified in the box score, then why can't these two teams seem to figure out that if you play hard, you win?
If you don't, you lose.
The Thunder have been out-scored by 80 points in the three games in San Antonio. The Spurs have been out-classed in the two games in Oklahoma City.
In all of the wins, the Thunder have played harder, been more aggressive and urgent. In all of the losses, the Thunder have looked disinterested. The Spurs have benched starters in both of the games in Oklahoma City and the Thunder did the same in Games 2 and 5.
Yet, for a series that seems so simple, there have been all sorts of elements and moving parts.
The Thunder have switched starting lineups, been without their best defender for the first two games and benched a long-time starter. The Spurs started Matt Bonner in Game 5 and veteran Tim Duncan of the Spurs said this is the craziest series he's played in.
And as far as the Thunder go, what changes come next? Well, if Brooks is planning on some sort of counter to the fact Bonner started Thursday, he wasn't saying, and the Thunder weren't practicing. Brooks said the team watched film for Friday's session and didn't practice.
"Effort and physicality," Reggie Jackson said. "That's about it. We know our backs are against the wall playing at home in front of our crowd. We're blessed to play another game. We have to take care of business."
"We need to help each other out more," Durant said. "You have to do it together on both ends of the court."
The Thunder's offense is good enough. It's defense hasn't been â not in the losses. Not in the intensity area.
Westbrook was a force in Game 4. He had three steals in Game 5, but didn't seem near as present in the second half. Same with Durant. He was outstanding on defense in Game 4 against Kawhi Leonard and not near the factor defensively in Game 5 on Leonard. Leonard had 14 points and seven rebounds and was plus-22.
"We have to play with better focus," Brooks said. "We have to dictate the game defensively. We have to make them feel uncomfortable."
We all know the Thunder's success is linked tightly to Westbrook and Durant. What we don't know is how their effort will be Saturday night in Game 6.