Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Thunder can't lose focus ahead of elimination game


There was a great deal of commotion around Game 6. There was “that” headline, the mounting pressure on Kevin Durant, the job security issues facing Scott Brooks and much more. The Thunder exploded out of the gates, grabbing the game by the throat and never letting go.

Game 7 needs to start in exactly the same manner.

OKC cannot afford to fall into any other line of thinking. This is a game 7, an elimination game – win or go home. They are at Chesapeake Arena where their faithful crowd will be pumped up and trying to will the team to victory, and they need to attack.

While the Memphis Grizzlies might be wounded with the loss of Zach Randolph to suspension and a less than 100% Mike Conley, there is still plenty of talent and fight in the Grizz to send the Thunder packing. In fact, during this playoff series, the Grizzlies have actually performed admirably without big ZBo on the floor. Their offensive efficiency rises from 93.4 to 111.2 and their defensive efficiency from 101.4 to 103.9 when Randolph has been parked on the pine.

Whenever a team has their backs to the wall, they are able to produce and the Grizzlies will be well aware of that. The season is on the line for both teams, not just the Thunder.

If the Thunder want to win and advance, they need to really look at how they managed to take Game 6 on the road. The aggressiveness of their superstar Kevin Durant in getting to the rim and the foul line and not settling for long range jumpers. The balance in Russell Westbrook‘s game to open up that mid-range shot as an option rather than everything at the basket or behind the arc.

Scott Brooks has already acknowledged that the starting lineup fared much better with Caron Butler on the floor from the opening tip and he will likely go that way again in Game 7. Then of course, you need to take care of the basketball, rotate defensively and really “key in” on locking down your man.

Mike Conley will play and although he may be limited physically, he still has more than enough talent and skill to get the job done. He also has an extremely high basketball IQ and can run this team on one leg and without it’s leading scorer. The Thunder will need to be very careful not to underestimate him or let him get loose.

In what has been a brilliant first round of playoff action, there is still one chapter left in arguably the best playoff series so far this year. While some of the key players may not be there or at their very best, they can still provide ample entertainment. Don’t count out the Grizzlies just yet, and don’t lock it in for the Thunder.

We still have 48 minutes of action to determine a winner. Or the way this series is going, we might need 53 minutes or more.

Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder