Three days off to sit and think about Game 2, or three days off to look forward to re-taking control of the series in Game 3.
Depends on how you look at this little break for the Thunder.
The series sits 1-1, which seems appropriate to me. The Grizzlies kind of feel like they should’ve won Game 1, the Thunder kind of feel like they should’ve won Game 2. Both teams have a good case to feel they should be up 2-0 in this series as it transitions to Memphis for a pivotal two games.
Obviously Memphis now has the upper hand with homecourt advantage, but it just means the Thunder have to win once at their place. It seems that split these two in Memphis is the key, though Scott Brooks said Friday before the team took off, that they aren’t thinking split. They’re thinking about one game.
“Our goal is to win Game 3. We’re not worried about Game 4,” Brooks said. “Game 4 is, not until, whenever, what is that, Monday. We’re not going in there to split. We’re going in there to win Game 3.”
I think that’s a very wise way to approach this. Really all the Thunder want/need is a split, but looking ahead to that doesn’t matter. Play the game in front of you, then think about the one after that.
But with three days off, there’s going to be adjusting and tinkering. The Thunder have had to stew on that loss for 72 hours, but it also means they’ve been able to recover, rest and practice. Because this series is roughing people up.
“It’s a physical series,” Brooks said. “My back is even sore.”
There’s been a lot of talk about it being “physical” but really, all that means is the Grizzlies have big guys that push and bang. The Thunder got outworked in that area in Game 2 with Memphis bringing in 16 offensive rebounds that created 23 second chance points. The Thunder’s focus is cleaning that up, being stronger with the ball, and executing in the halfcourt in crunchtime better.
“I think when we run stuff hard in the first, second or third quarter, it opens up for us more in the fourth,” Kevin Durant said. “We can’t just rely on one or two plays late in the game to win a game. We have to do it through the course of a game.”
A lot was made about Durant’s final three minutes in Game 2 and how Tony Allen “shut him down.” Regardless of the fact that Allen actually had very little to do with it and it was more about a missed shot and some bad luck, the reality is the Thunder got outscored 10-3 over the final three minutes and lost. It’s not about the offensive execution only. It’s about everything. It’s about closing games well.
With the series headed to Memphis, where life will be very tough for the Thunder to stay together with an angry crowd roaring at every bad call and no-call, the Thunder have to keep their composure and play on through the touch stretches.
And win one game. Preferably Game 3, because it’s the first one up.
On the three days off: “It’s been good getting our bodies right, getting some practice time, it’s good to work some of the kinks out and see what we did wrong and try and correct it.”
On physicality: “People want us to fight in basketball. They want to see that stuff, I guess it’s entertaining. It’s two teams playing solid basketball. That’s all it is. You’ve got to like that, you’ve got to enjoy that as a fan. Two teams playing hard and playing solid basketball. You don’t need all that other stuff in the game. Sometimes of course you want to bump those guys up and play physical and grab and touch ’em up, but we’re not throwing flagrants or anything like that, we’re just playing solid, sound basketball.”
Audio via Randy Renner