GAME PREVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
May 9th, 2013
GAME 3: Thunder at Grizzlies

The Thunder derives its worth from its work, which is why on Thursday after a development day, the team was excited to get back to work.

In the film room and on the practice floor at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ squad put in a solid day of effort an energy as it prepares for Game Three of its second round series against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday afternoon. The best-of-seven series is tied 1-1 after the teams split two games at Chesapeake Energy Arena, and the Thunder wants to be fully prepared as it heads east to try to win on the road in Games Three and Four.

“We had a good meeting and we had a good practice session today,” Brooks said. “I thought the guys were really focused and we got some good work done up and down the court and in the half court, some of the things we want to clean up. I thought our guys were good. Everybody had a good practice.”

Veterans like Derek Fisher and Nick Collison understand the importance of practices and film sessions because of their long tenure in the league. Because of the Thunder program and young leaders like Kevin Durant who set the example, even youngsters like point guard Reggie Jackson find great value in it too. With lively film sessions and intense practices where players take it to one another, but Thunder players are geared up to get back into a game setting this weekend.

“It’s good to see the mistakes you made and get out and practice,” Jackson said. “It’s always fun playing against these guys. I think we’re ready for the real challenge on Saturday.”

The differences between Game One and Game Two were pretty stark, and after the game Thunder players made it abundantly clear that they were aware of the problem areas that they need to fix. This series seems to be one that boils down to protecting the ball on offense and controlling Memphis’ second chance opportunities. While the Thunder turned the ball over only ten times in Game One, it did so 21 times in Game Two. That stat, according to Jackson and others, is one that the Thunder can and must control.

“We have to take care of the ball, keep them off the glass offensively and get some offensive rebounds ourselves,” Jackson said. “We feel that if we do those things and play basketball the right way, we can come up with a win.”

As for the other factor within the Thunder’s grasp, defensive rebounding, players like Collison, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Hasheem Thabeet will all need to continue battling, boxing out and getting good position. Meanwhile, players defending on the perimeter like Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Martin will all need to use their size and length to crash down and gang rebound. Preventing the Grizzlies second chance opportunities will be paramount to the Thunder’s success on Saturday.

“That’s always going to be the key with them,” Collison said. “They want to get more shots than the other team and they rely on that. We did an incredible job on the boards the first game. We’re probably not going to hold them to four points on offensive rebounds again but we want to do better than we did in game two. That’s the key for sure.”

Fortunately for the Thunder, now in its tenth Playoff series in the last four seasons, there is a level of experience that helps the team understand the nature of postseason basketball. Just because one team executed better than another in Game One doesn’t mean that will be the case in Game Two. As Fisher explains, there is no script in the postseason, no set path that determines wins and losses. It’s all about the Thunder controlling what it can on each possession and playing as hard and well as possible for 48 minutes.

“Through our Playoff experience that we’ve had the last few years, including that Houston series, we realize that each game is its own thing,” Collison said. “That’s the biggest apart about the Playoffs is being able to get past either a win or a loss and being ready to play the next game.”

“We don’t worry about anything that happened in the past or anything that is going to happen in the future,” Collison continued. “It’s all about being ready to play in Game Three.”