The Oklahoma City Thunder went into Memphis with an even series. They knew it would be tough trying to beat the Grizzlies at the “Grindhouse” but if they wanted to snatch momentum back and take a 2-1 lead they would have to find a way to get it done.
Behind again for the majority of the game due to poor shooting, lackluster defense and silly turnovers, the Thunder always seemed to be playing catchup. They have struggled since Game 1 where they were able to play a fast-paced, up and down style of game and now that the series has become a half court, grind it out style of playoff series, the Thunder look lost.
Credit to the Memphis Grizzlies who are playing terrific basketball. It isn’t always pretty, but it’s always pretty effective. They are playing to their strengths inside, moving the ball well and they are getting some terrific output from the reserves – all key factors in the past two Memphis wins / Thunder losses.
Tony Allen is doing a terrific job on Kevin Durant, Zach Randolph is a beast inside and the playmaking from Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Beno Udrih has been first class. That is why they lead the series 2-1 and have the Thunder on the ropes with Game 4 to be played in Memphis.
While many are quick to write off the Thunder – and if they don’t make some adjustments they will lose this series – there is still plenty of time to turn it all around.
In both losses the Thunder have turned the ball over too many times, they have received little to no spark or assistance from the reserves and they have shot the ball at a fairly poor clip. The Memphis defense has to be credited with some of this, but the Thunder can definitely improve.
They have been able to get both losses into overtime after overcoming deficits and despite the poor play, which suggests that if they can get everything to click, they are going to win these games. The only issue is, how to reverse their form and get it all to come together in time.
As a team the Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the most potent offensive units in the league. When locked in, they are also one of the best defensive units in the game. Now it is time, with their backs against the wall, to make it all happen.
The underdog status is on the Thunder now. No one expects them to be able to come back from this and there are plenty of talks about game style, coaching, depth etc. The Thunder can answer all those questions by playing the way they know they can. The Memphis Grizzlies are a great team, but the Thunder are better and they need to show it.
Serge Ibaka has been a positive light in the series, but he is going to need at least a dozen shots per game. Durant and Westbrook are going to need to move the ball through their teammates hands if they want to win and those teammates and the bench, are going to need to give the Thunder points and defensive intensity.
As good as Tony Allen is, you won’t keep Durant down all series and he is due for a big Game 4. If the rest of the Thunder can lift their game as well, OKC could be headed back home with a 2-2 series – if not, they could be in real trouble.