The Oklahoma City Thunder was the first team to close out its first round series and advance to the Western Conference semifinals by sweeping the defending champion Dallas Mavericks on the heels of a double-digit comeback win.
OKC claimed Game 3 in dominant fashion, and followed it by blazing fourth quarter performance in Game 4 to top the Mavericks. Kevin Durant, who hit a game-winner in game one, and turned in a 24-point, 11-rebound double-double in Game 4, was impressed with the balanced contributions throughout the series.
"Everybody chipped in. I hit a game-winner, Russ took over two games, James took over, Fish did a great job for us all series, Serge had a big game in the first game, Nazr game in and stepped up for Perk, so there were a lot of different guys that came in and put their hand prints on that series," Durant said. "We're going to need that, we need a lot of different guys to contribute on both ends."
Conventional wisdom believes that the young team would prefer to continue keep playing, wanting to build on the momentum from a pair of big wins. While the players would like to keep playing, they're finding a way to maximize on the downtime, after taking a crucial day off to rest, even if the team doesn't know its potential opponent.
"You still have to prepare. We do a lot of things that we have to do every game to have success and that's what we're working on," head coach Scott Brooks said. "When we do find out who we play, we'll change a few things, but you can't change everything. We'll always have a firm foundation of what we'll do defensively and offensively."
With the frenetic pace of the condensed regular season and the first round of the playoffs, the break allows players time to rest and recuperate from a physical series and season.
"We're finally able to get back in the gym and work on the things we can control," Sixth Man of the Year candidate James Harden said. "Guys can get rest and get treatment, Perk can get healthy. This week has definitely helped us a lot."
Tuesday, the Thunder capitalized on its depth, with a competitive, four-on-four, intra-squad scrimmage between the first and second units.
The completive nature between teammates allows them to build resilience and prepare for whichever team wins in the Los Angeles/Denver series.
"[The second unit players] bring it every single day. It's making us tougher because we don't call fouls out here and all they do is foul," Durant said. "Coach lets us play and it just gets us tougher. We do have a lot of depth, and everybody is coming in working hard."
Oklahoma City now awaits the winner of the series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets, with game six of the series being played at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The Lakers lead the series 3-2.