GAME 3 PREVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
April 24th, 2014
Bursting out of the Gates in Game 3

MEMPHIS – As if they were shot out of a cannon, Thunder ball-handlers Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant burst up the floor after grabbing defensive rebounds in the fourth quarter of Game 2, pushing the tempo and creating space in the open court.

In tonight’s Game 3 at Fed Ex Forum in Memphis, the Thunder wants to turn Grizzlies’ missed shots into its own fast break chances by gang rebounding and then running. If it can avert the grind-it-out, bogged down Grizzlies’ style of play, the Thunder will have a chance to put pressure on Memphis’ bigs in transition. Even if Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team doesn’t get a layup chance in transition, by simply pushing the ball ahead quickly, the Thunder will give itself more time to try to execute and go through multiple offensive options on the back end of the shot clock.

“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.”

“It’s key to take good shots and know the difference between pace and playing too fast,” Westbrook explained.

Just like the beginning of possessions are key for the Thunder on both ends of the floor, the start of tonight’s game will be crucial to overall success as well. Forcing Memphis to play from behind and chase the Thunder would be a major shift from the tone of Game 2, reverting to the style that was successful in Game 1 in this 1-1 best of seven series. Each of the nearly 200 possessions that will take place in this game will be hard-fought, and the Thunder wants to win as many possessions as possible during the 48 minutes.

“We have to come out with a sense of urgency to start the game,” Durant said. “Every possession is important, starting from the first one.”

On the season, the Thunder has been able to do that more often than not, going 59-23 overall and 25-16 on the road, the second best marks in both categories in the entire NBA. Over the years, this battle-tested Thunder squad has not only been faced with difficult circumstances and challenging road environments, but also has shown it has the resolve and poise to come through when the bar is set high and when it faces adversity. Against the Grizzlies tonight, the Thunder will rely on the composure that it has displayed not just this season, but over the past five years in the Playoffs.

“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.”

“You have to be prepared to take on whatever comes your way, stick together and play as a team,” Westbrook echoed.

The series is tied 1-1, but even with home court advantage to start the series, the Thunder knew that throughout this Playoff run it will need to win on the road in order to advance. To veterans like Nick Collison, Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins, along with younger players like Steven Adams, Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka, the elements involved in performing well at home are just as critical as they are on the road. Come tip-off time, it’s just about who executes best.

“We have to be able to win three more games to win the series,” Collison said. “It doesn’t matter what city we’re in.”