April 26th, 2014
A Battle of Wills

MEMPHIS – All it takes is one. A win tonight in Game 4 against the Memphis Grizzlies would even up the seven-game series at 2-2, sending the scene back to Oklahoma City for two of the final three games.

It has been true in the past and is again today, Playoff games come down to a battle of wills and which team is able to impose its style and force onto the game. Thunder players and coaches all agreed that it is up to every man on the team to come out tonight with the requisite intensity, focus and fight that it takes to win a difficult game on the road. Team leaders like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be the ones in charge of setting the tone for the rest of the team, After a day of practice and a shootaround, the Thunder can’t wait to get the game started at 8:30 tonight.

“It’s just playing our game,” Westbrook said. “That’s the biggest thing. Just coming out and doing what we need to do to win the game.”

“We’re excited to play and looking forward to a great opportunity to try to tie this thing up,” Durant said. “It should be a fun one tonight.”

There are some tactical things that must happen for the Thunder to be successful tonight, like continued great defense by Kendrick Perkins on Zach Randolph in the post. If Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club can shrink the space on the floor that Memphis’ guards get, prevent driving lanes and rebound as a collective unit, it will have a chance to turn those defensive stops into open court offensive opportunities.

That formula has been successful for the Thunder all season, and both teams are aware of what style the other team wants to play. As a result, tonight will come down to which team can make its style the dominant one for the longest stretch. The execution on both ends will be critical, but most of that will be dictated by which team plays with the most force for 48 minutes.

“We know exactly what they do and vice-a-versa,” Brooks said. “We’ve been battling each other for three games. The fourth game is tonight and we have a few things that we want to do better. We have a few things that we want to do better on both ends. Defensively we want to make it tough on them taking their post shots.”

“X’s and O’s go out the door sometimes,” Durant said. “This is one of those times where you just impose your will. You’re going to go through adversity during the game, but we have to persevere through it all. We have to play with a lot of intensity and a lot of heart and play together.”

Getting a win tonight would start with great effort from the starting unit from opening tip off, but will extend throughout the rotation. Every player has a job to do and a role that can make an imprint on the game. From Durant and Westbrook to Derek Fisher, Reggie Jackson and Nick Collison, every Thunder player is aware of the ways in which they must put their stamp on the outcome of tonight’s battle. For all four quarters, if the Thunder can collectively make that happen, it will feel good about its chances to tie up the series.

“You can impact winning in so many different ways,” Brooks said. “You have to have a role and have to be able to play that role at a high level.”