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News » Relying on scrappiness

Relying on scrappiness

Relying on scrappiness
With the Sixers threatening to spoil another improbable Thunder victory, Kyle Weaver stepped in.

Well, actually, he swooped in out of nowhere.

The Thunder guard streaked across the court to steal a pass and squash a for-sure fast-break dunk. That basket would've cut the Thunder lead to a dozen with just over two minutes left in the game and swung the momentum firmly in the Sixers' favor.

Instead, the Thunder cruised to victory, 89-74.

Another win without Kevin Durant and Jeff Green.

Another nod to just how hard this team is playing.

"We're playing with a lot of tenacity," Thunder coach Scott Brooks acknowledged. "Guys are really doing a good job of helping out."

Weaver's steal, after all, was just one of many hustle plays Sunday night at the Ford Center. There was Earl Watson battling for a tip-in putback even though he was the smallest guy on the court. There was Nick Collison tracking down a breakaway to block a shot. There was Thabo Sefolosha holding Philadelphia star Andre Iguodala to only nine points.

Want to know how these guys have won four of five, in large part without Durant and Green?

Look no further than that all-out scrappiness.

"Obviously, when you're down so many guys ... the urgency is there," Weaver said. "Guys want to get out there and play."

It would be impossible to overstate just how hard these guys are playing.

"That's what we have to do when we're down in numbers," Russell Westbrook said.

Just because that's what teams with injured stars should do doesn't mean that's what they end up doing. It would have been easy for the Thunder to have packed it in, to have shut it down after Durant and Green went down.

Instead, this squad is playing some of its best ball of the season.

Want some perspective on how impressive this is?

Look north to Minnesota. The Timberwolves have a record that's one game better than the Thunder's, but playing without injured star Al Jefferson, they are on a nine-game losing streak and have won only twice in their past 19 games.

Some of those losses have been real stinkers, too. A 24-point home loss to Golden State. A 20-point home loss to Portland. An 18-point loss to Toronto.

Sure, the Thunder has several double-digit losses on its resume in the past few weeks, but all of them have been road games except for one, a home loss to the Lakers.

No shame in losing by double digits to Kobe and Co.

Remember, too, that victories after the All-Star Break are always harder to come by. Teams are jockeying for playoff spots and postseason seeds, and in the process, teams like the Thunder usually take it on the chin.

They are out of the playoff race. They get beat down by the contenders.

They become late-season punching bags.

"A team like this, where it's not a great season, guys going down towards the end ... you could come up with a lot of excuses and a lot of reasons to say, 'Hey, let's shut it down,' " Weaver said.

The Thunder has bucked that trend.

"I think that shows the type of guys we have," Weaver said.

Brooks said: "They're high-character guys. They love to play. They love to compete. They love to get after it."

The Thunder coach shook his head.

"Our practices ... you would think it was November," he said. "They want to get better. They understand the process we're in, and ... we're not taking these minutes or these games lightly."

That kind of effort provides optimism for future days and coming seasons, but it's already paying dividends. It's sparking this team to victory, making improbable wins possible.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: March 12, 2009


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