You never like trailing in a playoff series, but sometimes you find yourself down a game or two and really in desperate need of a win to avoid going home early. For the Thunder, down 2-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies in their first round series – that time is now.
In order to avoid going back to Chesapeake Arena down 3-1, the Thunder need to find a way to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies and in doing so will have to snap their 15 game home court win streak.
In both losses, the Thunder have been able to get the game into an overtime period, but each time, the Grizzlies have had the answers and come away with a victory. It must be extremely frustrating for the Thunder, but they can’t dwell on the narrow losses, they need to focus on wins and how they can grab one.
Slow starts, poor shooting and turnovers are three key areas where the Thunder need to improve if they want a different result as they leave the floor in game 4.
They cannot afford to let the Grizzlies get out to a comfortable lead and then play catch up. By giving a team like the Memphis Grizzlies who love to slow the game down and grind it out in the half court any sort of lead, you play right into their hands. One of the better defensive units in the league, they thrive on being able to shut games down. Once you have a handy lead, that task becomes easier.
The Thunder also need to make their shots. While the Grizzlie’s defense is tough, you can still get good, makeable shots if you work hard and move the basketball. When you over dribble or the ball stops in a players hands for too long – the Grizzlies can recover and contest everything which makes life for the Thunder more difficult.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the focal points of the Thunder’s offense, but they are being very well played and will need to rely on and trust in the rest of the team to step up and make shots and plays when it counts. Serge Ibaka has been good, but the combination of Derek Fisher, Caron Butler and Reggie Jackson are going to need to help out a lot more than they have over the past two encounters.
If you give the Grizzlies more possessions, the damage is two-fold. They get to slow the game down again and control the clock more frequently, but you also don’t get a chance to score which means that Memphis don’t have to score – and they love games like that. The Thunder need to limit these turnovers and make sure they get as many shots and possessions as they can. They need to run the game score up and up which will put the pressure back on the Grizz.
With their backs against the wall, the Thunder have usually responded and they will need to do so in Game 4. By tightening up their ball handling, getting and making good shots while pushing the ball up and down the floor, they might be able to get themselves a win and back into the series.
The Thunder are under fire. Their players, their coach, their game style – all under intense scrutiny. Diamonds are created by pressure – let’s hope the Thunder can shine through as well.