Now The Real Work Begins
By Randy Renner
After two games both teams have hit the other hard. Each has succeeded and each has failed so now the real work begins.
The frustrations are starting to build and both the Thunder and the Grizzlies know Game 3 could shape the rest of the series.
Can the Grizzlies again force the Thunder to play at their pace and can their guards find openings into the paint?
Or can the Thunder regain the swagger of Game 1? Force the issue and the pace? Get the Grizzlies on their heels and wear them out?
We won't be able to see how well the adjustments work until Thursday evening but the Thunder spent a lot of time, a LOT of time, working on fine tuning their approach and fixing problems that showed up Monday night during an extra long practice session on Tuesday.
"We focused on the little things that we feel are important, things that we didn't feel we did as well as we would have liked," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told reporters after practice.
One of those things is the Thunder allowed the Grizzlies to get too comfortable in their offense. Memphis was able to milk the shot clock down and then drive into the paint. The Thunder will have to shut that down on defense and on offense Brooks said, "We have to do a better job of attacking early in the shot clock but also within our half court. Keep them moving and move the basketball from side to side."
Brooks admitted, "we took a few too many quick shots. Quick is not good unless it's in the paint or they're open threes. But those are areas we talked about and we hope to do much better."
But even with some of the Thunder's poor play and the Grizzlies outstanding efforts Brooks pointed out, "it was a tie ball game with 35 seconds to go," in the overtime period, "so we still put ourselves in a position to win the game."
Brooks didn't spend any of the film session screaming and yelling at his players as the various mistakes showed up on the screen. And Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said that's pretty much the way it usually goes.
"There really wasn't too much said in the film room because sometimes you just don't need to say too much 'cuz it's right there in front of your face," Perk said. "It's called the truth box so you can't really hide how it works."
Perkins said rather than point certain things out Brooks prefers to let his players see for themselves where they made their mistakes.
"He kinda sit back and just be quiet and let you see for yourself, he may say rewind it and let you see it again."
One thing the Thunder saw an awful lot of was Tony Allen making a major pest of himself while guarding Kevin Durant and at times Russell Westbrook.
Durant appeared frustrated at times with Allen's smothering defensive presence but he still managed to score 36 points, grab 11 rebounds, hand out four assists and block a couple of shots and despite that in your face, hands all over the place defense by Allen, Durant only turned the ball over once.
Yes it took him 28 shots but still a stat line of 36 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one turnover is pretty darn impressive.
So Durant got a bit snippy with reporters who kept bringing up Allen's outstanding defense.
"You know it's not like I'm just getting totally locked down, but he is making it tough, it's the playoffs every possession is gonna be tough no matter who we're playing. But it's not like I'm just non-existent. I mean, I don't know what you guys been watchin'. But he is making me work."
And Perkins, who knows Allen pretty well from their days as teammates in Boston, said that's not gonna change.
"He don't stop, he don't stop," Perkins said of the former OSU All-American. "He's a great defender. One thing about it is he don't want the guy to catch the ball so he gonna deny, deny, deny."
And then Big Perk had some advice for KD, or anyone else trying to fight through Allen's defense.
"Once you catch it, then you can go to work on him. I think we set him up better, we'll be able to get some good picks on him. But he don't stop. He gonna keep comin'."
No one knows that better than Kevin Durant because he will be doing the exact same thing.