I realize the headline “Oklahoma City Thunder Must Win Game Seven” sounds just as bad as “Mr. Unreliable.” Of course they must win game seven. If they don’t, their season and championship hopes are over. That’s a pretty good reason to must win a game.
For the Thunder, there’s more to it than that.
The Memphis Grizzlies will be without Zach Randolph and possibly without Mike Conley. Even if Conley plays, he’ll likely be hobbling and not 100%. The Thunder will have home court advantage. The Thunder will have the soon to be named MVP. The Thunder will have the three of the best four players on the court. The Thunder will have an all of a sudden competent Scott Brooks. The Thunder will have all the momentum from game six.
The Grizzlies have won three games in this series, all in overtime. Two of the three Thunder victories have come by double digits. That goes to show that OKC is the superior team. Memphis has played well in this series, they’ve battled hard and are better than their seven seed indicates, but OKC has proven that when they turn it on, Memphis can’t stop them.
The Memphis offense, statistically, is better without Randolph. It’s a small sample size though, and doesn’t indicate who the Thunder had on the floor. If Memphis goes small with a potential Conley/Udrih, Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, Mike Miller, and Marc Gasol then that would allow the Thunder to go small with Russell Westbrook, Jackson, Caron Butler, Kevin Durant, and Serge Ibaka. You tell me which lineup you’d rather have on the floor. Obviously, despite the stats, Memphis is a better team with Randolph on the floor. He gives shooters extra space with his presence in the post and his ability to screen.
Without Randolph and possibly Conley, how does Memphis win this game? Kendrick Perkins can now guard Marc Gasol, allowing Serge Ibaka to conserve his energy on the defensive end and contribute more on the offense end. Beno Udrih is a fine player, but he’s not a starter. And with him starting, that weakens the Grizzlies already mediocre bench and allows Reggie Jackson the opportunity to make another big impact.
The Thunder must win this game.
If they don’t, a lot of questions will need to be asked and answered.
Scott Brooks must be fired if Oklahoma City loses this game. He might’ve lost his job if the Thunder lost game six or lost game seven to a healthy Grizzlies team. If he allows his team to lose to a depleted Memphis team, there’s just no hope for him in Oklahoma City.
“Mr. Unreliable” might be the nicest thing said about Durant if OKC loses this game. The Kevin Durant we saw in game six will be forgotten if he doesn’t lead his team to victory in game seven against this Grizzlies team. It’s going to be a sad scene for Durant if he’s handed the MVP trophy at the golf course and not on the court.
The tandem of Durant and Westbrook must be re-evaluated. I’ve always thought that certain people try to over-blow the relationship between Durant and Westbrook, but if these two can’t get it done in this game, things might have to change. Even though Durant and Westbrook have a good relationship on and off the court, maybe it’s just not meant to be. Maybe they can’t win together and OKC would be better off trading Westbrook for more assets and just build around Durant.
The Oklahoma City Thunder must win this game. They have to win this game. They will win this game.