The Western Conference Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs is tied at 2-2 and both teams will be hoping to win the fifth game to take a crucial lead in the series at the AT&T Centre on Thursday night.
The Spurs registered a dominating win in the first two games, but they were outplayed by the Thunder in the next two. This is a familiar situation for San Antonio, as in 2012 they lost the conference finals 4-2 against Oklahoma after winning the first two games.
"We can't think about the past," Oklahoma's Kevin Durant said. "We have to focus on right now. This team [San Antonio] is well-coached and has a great group of guys. They'll make it tough. We have to worry about getting better and having our focus and energy on every single play."
The Thunder dominated the last two games and looked a completely changed outfit filled with energy. The presence of Serge Ibaka, who made a surprise return from a calf strain, also increased their confidence.
San Antonio have to capitalise on the home-court advantage and a loss means they will be facing elimination at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Saturday. San Antonio's Tim Duncan said the players need to remain focused and execute their plans on the court.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich believes his players should learn from Russell Westbrook, who stole the fourth game from them by playing equally well on both sides of the court. Westbrook finished the game with 40 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.
"It doesn't matter what we do tactically if we don't up that determination, that attitude, that persistent, aggressive, ugly, hard-nosed attitude and I think that was embodied in them in Russell Westbrook," Popovich said. "He played like it was his last game, and that's the way it's got to be."
Ibaka is averaging 12 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in the Western Conference Finals so far and his presence had been the main difference-maker in the last two games. Oklahoma's overall defensive effort has also improved, as the Spurs have shot below 40 percent.
"They're up in the passing lanes, they have starters and they have Serge in there and their big guys back there who are protecting the rim, so they're gambling a little more," San Antonio's Duncan said. "They've turned that gambling into turnovers and took some fast-break points and gave them a big boost in that area."
Ibaka played 30 minutes in the third and 35 minutes in the fourth game and Brooks said the 24-year-old is feeling fine. Reggie Jackson, who sprained his right ankle in the last game, is also feeling good, according to the OKC Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Where to Watch Live
The game is scheduled for a 9:00 pm ET (6:30 am IST, 1:00 am GMT) start with live coverage on TNT in the US and Sony Six and Sony Six HD in India. The game can be watched via live streaming option in the US HERE or HERE. The game can be live streamed by international viewers, including India, HERE.