MIAMI -- All season long, when the Oklahoma City Thunder break a huddle, they say one word: Family.
The team is built upon a foundation of togetherness, brotherhood and chemistry. Almost every team in the NBA preaches that type of stuff, but the Thunder definitely live it. After games they all go to dinner together, they play video games together, they actually enjoy each other's company.
So when someone breaks the line and steps outside of the company code, it's a big deal. Which is what made Kendrick Perkins' comments following the Thunder's Game 4 loss so startling.
"I just don't understand why we start out the first quarter the way we did, with the lineup that we had, and all of a sudden we change and adjust to what they had going on," Perkins said after Game 4. "So they won the last three quarters, and that's what happened.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
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To all, it appears a not-so-veiled shot at Scott Brooks' lineup decisions in the first half of Game 4. The Thunder began the game 13-3 but when the Heat cut it down to 15-10, Brooks made substitutions, went smaller with Nick Collison as his center, and OKC roared to a 33-19 first quarter lead.
Of course, you know the story from there. The Heat went on a 16-0 run and withstood a barrage from Russell Westbrook to take a 3-1 series lead.
Brooks wasn't specifically asked about Perkins' statement during Wednesday's availability, but did offer this quote, which applies: "I don't think the game comes down to who plays and who doesn't play. It's how we play." That should say enough.
Perkins, a savvy championship veteran, was clearly feeling the frustration of losing a third straight game while seeing his team backed into the elimination corner. He only saw 18 minutes in Game 4 and has become an easy target for criticism of the way Brooks has handled his rotations. As the Heat have remained mostly small through the series playing Chris Bosh or Udonis Haslem as their center, the Thunder have worked to try to involve their regular two big man rotation.
"All of it is frustration, but at the end of the day we got a group of guys, we're all capable of playing well and making plays," Perkins said. "And at the end of the day, coach was trying to coach to win the game. At the end of the day, whoever's out there on the court we got belief in each other that we can get the job done."
As you might expect, though, Perkins backed off his post-Game 4 comments saying he wasn't calling out Brooks, despite it clearly sounding that way.
"No, that wasn't what I was saying," Perkins said. "I was just trying make it clear that at the time, he had a good adjustment what we was doing, but at the end of the day, when you're in the flow of the game, or you're in the heat of the battle, guys out there playing hard, a couple box outs here or a couple loose balls there and we end up winning the game.
"So at the end of the day, it wasn't nothing directed at Coach Brooks or nothing to that nature," he continued. "I'll roll with Coach Brooks all day. So it wasn't nothing directed at him or that nature."
Whatever Perkins' intent was, the fact remains clear: The Thunder can't go sniping at each other now. It's far too late for those type of things. The team cited one thing in digging out of an 0-2 hole against the Spurs and that was staying together. They all believed, they all remained close. When the whole world has given up on you and thinks you're done, you've got to rely on those other guys in that locker room.
"Staying together, just keep fighting, keep going at it, keep coming in and working every day, and I think that's what we did," Russell Westbrook said.
Said Kevin Durant: "It's all about keep competing until that last buzzer sounds, and that's what we're going to do. That's the type of city we play for, a city that never gives up. That's the type of team we are. We're going to keep fighting, keep fighting, and we'll see what happens tomorrow."
OKC's locker room is as tight as any in the league, and that closeness is a large part of who they are as a team. They believe in their process, their plan, their teammates. Perkins might've stepped out of line (or so it seemed), but he quickly jumped back in order.
"We got this far doing the things that we do, and we don't need to change now," Perkins said. "We just need to stick to what we do and do it better."