GAME PREVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
May 7th, 2013
GAME 2: Thunder vs. Grizzlies

Regardless of whether Kevin Durant’s jumper with 11.1 seconds remaining was a make or a miss, the Thunder still put the same 48 minutes on tape in Game One against the Memphis Grizzlies.

As a result, the Thunder hasn’t lingered on the thrill of the victory that gave it a 1-0 series lead, but rather analyzed areas of strength and weakness in order to best prepare itself for Game Two, tonight at 8:30 CT. The second round of the Playoffs will be markedly different in terms of style of play than the first round, but the Thunder’s core tenets haven’t changed. Through hard work, film study and communication, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club is focused first and foremost with how it plays on the defensive end. Even though it won Game One, there are adjustments and corrections still to be made.

“We have to do a better job of controlling the ball and getting out to the shooters,” Durant said. “We have to make adjustments and I think the coaches prepare use pretty well and we’ve watched film. We have to better as well.”

One area where the Thunder performed well in Game One which will be imperative in Game Two is on the defensive glass. Durant registered a game-high 15 rebounds on Sunday afternoon, all on the defensive end. While he swooped in to gang rebound with the rest of the Thunder’s perimeter players as each Grizzlies’ shot went up, it took a full team effort to hold Memphis to just four second chance points. In fact, Durant deflected all the credit for the plus-two rebounding margin and heaped it upon his teammates.

“I don’t take any credit for my rebounds,” Durant said. “It’s all the bigs pushing those guys under the rim. They were just falling in my hands. It’s also the guy on the ball, guarding the shooter, showing a good contest and making those guys miss... Serge (Ibaka), Nick (Collison), (Kendrick) Perkins, Thabo (Sefolosha) and Hasheem (Thabeet) did a good job of boxing their guy out, making it easier for me. Hopefully it’s the same tonight.”

While Durant and the Thunder’s perimeter players were contesting shots on the perimeter, Thunder bigs like Ibaka, Perkins and Collison were battling with Grizzlies big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, two of the best offensive rebounders in the league. By focusing on the small details like boxing out and positioning, the Thunder has the chance to be successful on the glass again tonight.

Winning on the margins and with the little things throughout a game often becomes the difference on the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounds. It’s true on the defensive glass for the Thunder, but also on offense as Brooks’ squad squares off against one of the best defenses in the league. By setting screens with proper timing, running sets crisply and finding the open man, the Thunder hopes to flex its muscles on the offensive end.

“Knowing both teams’ mentality is defensive basketball, if you get an easy bucket, that’s an added bonus,” Brooks said. “Every bucket is going to be worked for and hard earned. We have to make sure we really do a good job of everybody being on the same page in every set, running hard and putting ourselves in a position to get scores.”

Part of that offensive strategy is based in the fact that the Thunder can count on every man on the court to play their role, take good shots and make the shots that are in their repertoires. Through sharing the ball and playing unselfishly, the Thunder shows that it has implicit faith in everyone from Kevin Martin to Derek Fisher to step up and knock down a shot within the flow of the offense.

“I trust in my teammates no matter what,” Durant said. “The team trusts in each other. If they’re missing shots or I’m missing shots they’re going to come to me and I’m going to go to them. I just tell them before the game that no matter what if we play as hard as we can every minute, we have no regrets.”

While the concentration and focus to execute on both ends of the floor will be key tonight against the physical, aggressive Grizzlies, it’s the attitude that will be most important. Just as it did in Game One, the Thunder has to play as hard as possible for 48 minutes, while also maintaining composure throughout the course of the game to be mentally prepared for any in-game adjustments that might be necessary.

“Just be ready to play our game,” Brooks said. “Our game consists of playing physical, playing hard and playing together. We have to do that for 48 minutes tonight.”