Thunder Heading to Memphis, Ready for Game Three

The Oklahoma City Thunder is in the City of the Blues for Game 3 of its second-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Players and coaches say it's important to come away with victory on the road.

“We know we need to win there without a doubt,” said Thunder power forward Nick Collison. “So we’ll focus on that the first game Saturday and no matter what happens we’ll do it again the next game (Monday) so yeah we know it’s huge but all these games now are huge you need each one so that’s our mindset going into these games.”

Thunder players expect Grizzlies fans to fill FedEx Forum and make more noise than OKC players have heard inside that building.

“We expect it to be crazy, similar to our crowd,” Collison acknowledged. “I’ve always said I think the crowd affects the home team more, gives them more of a boost and more energy, maybe even more confidence so it’s harder to compete against a team that’s really got it rollin’ at home. So we need to be even more focused on what we’re doing.”

The Thunder needs to win at least one game in Memphis to gain back home court advantage in the series and players and coaches would prefer to take the first one and set a tone that could have a big impact on the next game.

“It would be a great win for us,” agreed Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks. “We have to go in there and compete and it’s not going to be easy. They’re a good team and their crowd is very good now but we have to get at least one win.”

As to how that happens Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has the answer.

“Defense is always the key,” he said. “To be able to win in the post season you have to be able to defend and then win on the road so that’s going to be our main focus.”

Reporters in Memphis are saying the Grizzlies have spent much of the last couple of days working on improving their spacing on offense and ball movement. They believe that became stagnant in game two.

“Well we’re still going to continue to do what we do to pack the paint,” Westbrook responded upon hearing that news. “We’re going to do that regardless of whether they’re spacing out or what. We just have to continue to do what we’re doing.”

Brooks echoed those remarks a few minutes later.

“We’re going to do what we do and what we’ve done all year just try to contain the basketball, keep it away from the basket and close out their shooters. However they play we will adjust accordingly but we’re really more concerned with just how we play and the type of energy, effort and execution we put on the floor.”

Brooks and his players believe those three things, energy, effort and execution are the keys to both the offense working the way it’s supposed to and the defense. The team that brings it every game should be the team that finishes ahead on the scoreboard.

Since the team with the best regular season record (Chicago) has already lost a game at home, every team in the league now faces the same task as the Thunder if they hope to earn a Championship.

“Eventually you’re going to have to win on the road and we have to do that now,” Brooks said. “We have two great opportunities coming up (Saturday and Monday) to do that but it’s not going to be easy. Our players understand that and they embrace that challenge. They’re looking forward to Saturday’s game.”

Aren’t we all.

Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. inside FedEx Forum. You can watch all the action on ESPN or listen in on the Thunder Radio Network.