Durant: "Every Possession Is Important"
By Randy Renner
Sometimes in an 82 game regular season players have been known to take a play or two off here and there. Especially in games that maybe weren't close at that particular time or against an opponent that was perceived to be inferior.
In the playoffs that generally changes and for the Thunder the message for tonight's critical Game 3 is very clear.
"We have to come out with a sense of urgency to start the game," Thunder superstar Kevin Durant said today at the team's shootaround in Memphis. "Every possession is important, starting from the first one."
Kendrick Perkins said almost the exact same thing after Tuesday's practice in Oklahoma City.
"A sense of urgency coming out right from the jump," is how Big Perk put it. "It's a every possession game. Like what a lot of people don’t realize is it don’t come down to what happened the last minute of the game. Sometimes what happened the first 15 minutes of the game could effect what went on the last minute, so, if we aint grab an offensive rebound, or if we had a turnover early in the game that could cost us two or three points comin down the stretch."
That clearly was Thunder head coach Scott Brooks message.
"It’s a possession by possession basketball game its not a series it’s a game," he said at the time, "and you have to focus on the game you cant worry about the series record you cant worry about the last play or the next play you have to focus on that play because that’s the most important possession."
Tonight the Thunder want to push the pace but not get themselves out of control.
"It’s key to take good shots and know the difference between pace and playing too fast,” Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook explained.
“It’s important for us to get the ball up the floor and not play late into the shot clock,” Westbrook said. “It’s important for us to come out, get into our sets, run our sets and try to get an easy basket.”
In last Saturday's Game 1 the Thunder were able to do that, helped mostly by getting rebounds and blocks and turning them immediately into fast break opportunities. In Monday night's game the Grizzlies shut that down and used steady and deliberate ball movement to get high percentage shots in the paint.
"We’d like to get more hands on the basketball, more deflections, more steals," Brooks pointed out.
"We have to really lock in with our defense and play the full 24 seconds because they take a lot of shots deep in the shot clock so you have to play the entire shot clock, you cant relax because if you relax they get an easy shot in the paint, a duck in or a back door cut."
The Thunder saw all of that when they looked at the film of Monday's game. They've worked the last two days on fixing the problems.
Now they must implement the plan on the road in a place so hostile to opponents it's been nicknamed "The Grindhouse."
“We come together even more on the road,” Durant said. “That’s important, especially in the playoffs. Those road wins during the regular season prepared us for games like tonight. We have to be ready from the beginning.”
The Thunder were 1-1 in Memphis in the regular season but are just 1-4 at FedEx Forum in the playoffs. None of that really matters right now.
“We have to be able to win three more games to win the series,” Thunder forward Nick Collison said. “It doesn’t matter what city we’re in.”