No "Relaxing" Tonight
By Randy Renner
The Oklahoma City Thunder have lost three straight Game 5s in the NBA playoffs, all of them coming at home.
They lost Game 5 to the Rockets last season and then Game 5 to Memphis last season on the way to losing that series and they lost Game 5 to the Grizzlies this season before going to Memphis and winning Game 6 over there and then Game 7 back in OKC.
If you're the Thunder you really don't want to have to go that same route to win this series against the Clippers.
In other words...NO RELAXING TONIGHT! OKAY?!?!
I don't care how big the lead is I don't want to have to listen to what I heard Russell Westbrook say after Monday's practice in explaining the defensive collapse in Game 4.
"Your instinct is to relax, you're up 20," he said. "Your instinct is to relax and just chill and that's kinda what we did."
I don't want to hear that after tonight's game, it gave me a headache just to have to type it again.
Okay, rant's over.
The Thunder should come into tonight's Game 5 with the proper focus and as we've seen when they do that, they're awfully tough to beat.
Still some things, other than NOT relaxing and chilling, will have to change.
If Doc Rivers opts to go super small again and put Chris Paul on Kevin Durant again the Thunder have to make them pay. Guys are going to have to move around. They can't stand out on the perimeter and rely on KD to escape what quickly becomes and double and maybe even a triple team.
"We got to move," Durant said. "We can't sit there and just try to force it to me because that's what they want. They want those guys to front and get up under me and once they pass it they're coming for a double team and we got to pass out of it."
But Sunday in L.A. the movement and the spacing didn't mesh leaving nothing but risky passes into traffic which more often than not became turnovers and Clipper fast breaks.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks needs to have a better plan going into tonight's game too and he realizes it.
“I can do a better job of some of our play-calling,” Brooks said after Monday's practice. “We can do a better job of setting screens…We have to do a better job of being able to react to the double teams, being able to capitalize on their decisions to double team Kevin or Russell 17 or 18 feet out.”
And I think they will be better prepared and better able to counteract whatever the Clippers throw at them tonight and who knows the Thunder will probably have a couple of tricks up their sleeves too.
But most important, if the Thunder get a big lead tonight, please, please PLEASE guys, do not relax, do not chill.
And maybe then the Thunder can get back on the high side in this series.