Thunder Will Try to End Series Friday Night in Memphis

With a potential Game 7 home game safely tucked away in its back pockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder is flying to Memphis hoping to send the Grizzlies into summer hibernation Friday night.

“The goal is to win four games and we have to win one more and we’re preparing ourselves to give every opportunity to win tomorrow night’s game in Memphis,” acknowledged Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks.

That Game 7 hole card is one the Thunder don’t plan on having to pull out and play.

“We know it’s going to be a very challenging feat to go into that building and win a game,” Brooks said. “But we’ve done it once and we have the ability to do it again.”

“We don’t want to be over confident. There’s a fine line between being cocky and confident. We’ve got a flight out to Memphis and we’ll be locked in,” Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant told reporters after Wednesday’s win. “(Game 5) is over with. We’ve got to worry about Game 6. We’ll stick together and see what happens.”

They know it won’t be easy, the Grizzlies are bears to deal with especially on their home floor.

“We know it’s going to be loud and it will be a hostile environment,” Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook said.

“Memphis is an incredible place to play, it’s almost as good as ours,” echoed Durant.

And there is the added ingredient that this now becomes a close-out game.

“Close-out games in basketball are the hardest games to play,” Brooks warned. “They’re going to give everything they have and they’re crowd is going to really be behind them. We’ll need to maintain our composure and play through everything. Play with force and play together.”

The Grizzlies hadn’t shot less than 40% in back-to-back games all season until this playoff series. OKC’s defense has now held Memphis to less than 40% in three straight games. And in the last four games, Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph is shooting a combined 31.9% and seems to be increasingly frustrated at the Thunder’s defensive pressure.

“Couldn’t nobody do nothing the way they pack it in the paint,” Randolph told reporters in the Grizzlies locker room.

In addition to throwing a lot of bodies at Randolph the Thunder have also been forcing him off his sweet spot down low.

“The whole goal of a possession is to make his catches farther out on the floor,” said Thunder forward Nick Collison, who has logged the most defensive minutes on Z-Bo. “Let him catch it on the block and it’s a nightmare.”

The defense has been outstanding ever since Game One and the offense has started to step it up also. After stumbling around and committing nine first quarter turnovers the Thunder settled down and settled in the rest of the way.

“As the game went on we took good care of the basketball,” said Brooks, “we were getting a shot every time down the court. Everybody chipped in.”