Thunder Will Push It Tonight
By Randy Renner
The Thunder know they will get the Grizzlies best shot tonight, no team wants to go down 0-2 in a playoff series so Kevin Durant says he and his teammates have to be ready.
"They wanna start stronger than what they did last game and we know that," he told reporters after the team's shootaround. "We gotta be able to punch them first, instead of just layin back and waiting for them to punch us. We've gotta be the first hitter."
So the Thunder, who were slow to get things started in some games during the regular season will try to do the exact same things at the beginning of tonight's game as they did at the beginning of Saturday night's game, only better.
"We've got to do a better job of closing up the paint and rebounding," Durant said.
And then he and his teammates have to keep building on what they hope will be a strong start and not let the Grizzlies out of their cage this time.
"We're gonna try to put 48 minutes together, not just 36," Durant pointed out referring to the lackluster third quarter.
"Last game we were a little upset with ourselves on how we did that so we gotta be better tonight."
So the Thunder will run and keep on running, hoping to wear the bigger, slower Grizzlies down and not get caught up the type of game Memphis wants to play.
"Pace is gonna be a big factor," said backup point guard Reggie Jackson, who had nine points and eight rebounds Saturday. "We wanna make sure that even our half-court sets are moving pretty fast so maybe get across the half-court line at 21-22 seconds and just try to work 'em. We know they're a man down with Nick Calathes (out with a drug suspension) and their bigs play a heavy amount of minutes and get most of the touches on offense so we gotta work them on defense."
The conventional wisdom is if the Thunder can get to triple digits they have a great chance of winning. They only game they lost to the Grizzlies in the regular season was a 90-87 game. Memphis was just 7-20 in the regular season when their opponent scored at least 100 points and now the Grizz are 0-1 when that happens in the post-season.
But Thunder forward Caron Butler said today it's not just a point thing.
"I think just the tempo, you wanna play up tempo basketball," he said, "and I think for the most part we did that (Saturday night)."
Much of that up tempo play was fueled by the Thunder defense creating fast break opportunities. In the first half Saturday night the Grizzlies had just one turnover but the Thunder had 21 points in transition. That is a huge ratio and it happened because the Thunder had an amazing 33 rebounds and eight blocks in those first 24 minutes.
Jackson and Russell Westbrook were all over the boards. Westbrook had eight first half rebounds and Jackson had five.
"We just try to get in there and help our bigs to the best of our ability to get rebounds," Jackson said. "They've been doing a great job boxing out and allowing us to roam and try to get free rebounds."
It happened so much on Saturday that Memphis will make an adjustment tonight.
''Now we know that we've got to send the (guards) back on the shot every time,'' Memphis guard Courtney Lee said Sunday. ''We can't gamble on the backcourt, we've got to get back. You know, when (Serge) Ibaka is blocking shots like that, leading off the fast break, me or Michael (Conley) or whoever's out there at the guard slot needs to realize that and get back.''
Tonight's game will tipoff at a more fan friendly 7 o'clock. You can see it on TNT or on Fox Sports Oklahoma if you prefer.
We of course will be updating the site as the day goes along. Next stop, The Peake, seeya there.