The Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves headed to Memphis with their first round playoff series tied at 1-1.
After controlling the first game with relative ease (although a third quarter lapse let the Memphis Grizzlies right back in it), the Thunder would have been feeling pretty good ahead of game 2. They were at home, the crowd at Chesapeake is one of the best in all of sports and they had seized momentum of the series in the first game.
It didn’t take long for that feeling to subside.
Game 2 was an uphill battle from the start. Memphis had come out with a renewed focus and were determined to avenge their first game performance. They started strongly and worked the ball inside to Zach Randolph who was almost unstoppable. It was the Grizzlies – not the Thunder – who took this game by the throat and it paid dividends.
While the Thunder were able to rally themselves and find a few minor miracles (including the four point play from Durant and Kendrick Perkins put back) and force the game into overtime, Memphis once again found the answers and went on a 6-0 run to even up the series.
So what can the Thunder expect in Game 3 and what can we expect from the Oklahoma City Thunder?
There is little chance the Thunder allow three quarters of a game to go by before bringing their intensity. Especially on the road, a good start is vital if you want to scratch out a win, and this one will be no exception. The Grizzlies will be full of confidence and in front of a home crowd will be very dangerous. OKC need to take the crowd out of the game early so they are back on a level playing field.
We need to see better interior defense and Thunder head coach Scott Brooks is going to have to be a little more flexible in the rotations. Steve Adams played under 3 minutes in game 2 while the Thunder were getting bullied inside. Perhaps a few more minutes for Adams – even if they result in some hard fouls – will set the tone and show the Thunder will not be bullied on the interior.
The bench needs to come to play. Reggie Jackson has been serviceable but there is plenty of room for improvement. With Durant and Westbrook being heavily relied on to do the bulk of the scoring and defending, the bench and role players need to find their hustle and energy. If they can take the pressure of the Thunder’s starters it will go a long way to another OKC win and taking back momentum in the series. It’s not panic stations just yet, but being up 2-1 is better than being down 1-2.
It’s going to be loud and it is going to be hostile, but the Thunder can silence the crowd and the critics with a solid win in game 3, and with a few adjustments it might just happen.