Playoff Recap: Thunder vs. Grizzlies Game One
April 21, 7:00PM CDT
100-86 FINAL SCORE
0 Lead changes in the game, as the Thunder led wire-to-wire
4 Blocked shots for Serge Ibaka in addition to 17 points and nine rebounds
28-for-32 Free throw shooting numbers by the Thunder, including 7-for-7 by Russell Westbrook
31-21 The amount by which the Thunder outscored the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter
32-13 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night
33 Points for Kevin Durant on 13-for-25 shooting, in addition to eight rebounds and seven assists
36.3 The shooting percentage the Thunder’s defense allowed to Memphis, including 2-for-11 from three-point range
51-41 The Thunder’s rebounding edge, led by Russell Westbrook’s ten and Reggie Jackson’s eight rebounds
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
April 19th, 2014
From the opening tip, the steely-eyed Thunder squad was precise, intense and focused.
Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club set the tone early, taking a 14-2 lead to start Game One against the Memphis Grizzlies. After building a 25-point second quarter lead, then sustaining a big punch by the Grizzlies in the third quarter, the Thunder rallied again to use a 13-1 burst in the fourth quarter, putting away a 100-86 victory.
Going up 1-0 in the series and protecting the home court at Chesapeake Energy Arena was paramount, and it was mostly due to two critical numbers – rebounding and fast break points. The Thunder, thanks to a gang rebounding effort, snagged ten more boards than the Grizzlies, which helped lead to 32 fast break points.
“Those (numbers) are absolutely connected,” Brooks said. “When we get the ball of the rim and not out of the net, we put ourselves in position to use our speed and athleticism and our ability to attack the goal.”
The focus and determination was palpable throughout the night, but most notably in the opening minutes of the first quarter, when the Thunder held Memphis scoreless for the first three minutes and to just 11 points after nine minutes of action. On defense, the Thunder swarmed around the floor, forcing Memphis into difficult passes, non-existent driving lanes and tough shot attempts. On offense, the Thunder ran crisp sets, pushed the pace and attacked the rim repeatedly.
“We were started off well because we were energetic, were flying around, in the passing lanes and helping each other out,” Durant said.
“We did a great job of just coming out and hitting them first,” Westbrook explained. “They’re a physical team and we did a good job of coming out and going about our gameplan.”
In fact, in the first half when the Thunder allowed just 34 points and 25 percent shooting to the Grizzlies, Brooks’ club registered opponent lows in both categories all time in Thunder playoff history. On the night, the Thunder’s defense forced Memphis to shoot just 36.3 percent, including 2-for-11 from the three-point line. All those missed shots led to rebounding opportunities, of which the Thunder gathered 51 total.
While bigs like Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Steven Adams were busy boxing out, it was the little guys who came swooping in to clean up the glass. Ibaka finished with nine rebounds to go with his four blocks and 17 points, but it was Durant, Westbrook and Reggie Jackson combining for 26 rebounds that made the difference.
“We did a good job defensively,” Brooks said. “I thought our bigs did a good job of keeping them out of the paint and keeping them off the boards.”
“Kevin, Russell, Reggie and (Caron Butler) did a great job to come help us,” Ibaka said. “They know, against this team, they need to help the bigs. We’re going to put a body on the guys, but sometimes it’s hard to put bodies on them and at the same time get the rebound. They did a great job to help us. That was key.”
Ending those defensive possessions with strong rebounds only propelled the Thunder’s offense, as Durant led the way with 33 points and seven assists, while Westbrook added 23 points and five assists. The dynamic scoring duo put pressure on Memphis’ defense by playing with quickness and using their speed and athleticism to stretch the floor in transition.
Playing in the second unit and with the starters, Jackson was aggressive, repeatedly attacking the rim to knock down seven of the Thunder’s 28 made free throw attempts. Jackson and Caron Butler each finished with nine points apiece off the bench, as the Thunder racked up 22 assists total and spread the ball around within the flow of the offense. The effort on both ends of the floor was aided by a raucous Chesapeake Energy Arena playoff crowd, which Butler had a chance to experience for the first time on Saturday.
“We did a great job of just getting out of transition and keeping a good pace,” Butler explained. “We were playing off the energy of the sixth man tonight. The crowd was unbelievable. I can’t even put it into words. We felt that energy out there and everybody contributed.”
Despite the fact that the game featured no lead changes, there were two big momentum shifts that determined the outcome. The Thunder gradually built a 25-point first half lead, which was whittled to just two points after a big Memphis run to start the third quarter. With the Thunder’s advantage just two points, the lowest it had been since 2-0, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club made their move.
With the score at 74-72 with 8:46 left in regulation, Serge Ibaka started the Thunder run with a cut to the lane, catching a pass from Kevin Durant and finishing a three-point play. A Caron Butler steal on the ensuing possession led to two Reggie Jackson free throw, then after a Grizzlies free throw, Derek Fisher drove and found Durant on the wing for an open three-pointer. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant then both pushed the tempo in transition and knocked down two free throws apiece, giving the Thunder an 87-73 edge with 6:01 remaining. The 13-1 burst was propelled by a defensive effort that forced four missed shots and two turnovers kept Memphis at bay.
“We settled ourselves down in that fourth quarter and we gave ourselves a cushion going down the stretch,” Brooks said.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Incredible athleticism by Kevin Durant to tip a defensive board back out to a teammate. Kendrick Perkins does a great job of keeping Zach Randolph’s touches far from the rim. Unbelievable outlet pass by Russell Westbrook to Durant to hit him right in stride for a fast break dunk. Nick Collison tips out a loose ball that immediately leads to a perfect two-on-one fast break. Strong box out by Caron Butler to prevent the much bigger Marc Gasol from grabbing a rebound.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
A full defensive effort for 24 seconds by the Thunder forces the Grizzlies into an errant pass and backcourt violation. Excellent work by Ibaka to snare a defensive rebound then keep the ball high above his head to prevent an opponent from swiping it. Westbrook sprints over and tracks down an offensive board. Collison dives on the floor for a loose ball to regain possession. Beautiful ball movement out of the pick-and-roll with Westbrook Durant and Ibaka to get an easy bucket.
“We earned this one tonight. Hopefully we can learn from it, get better and put ourselves in position to earn another one on Monday.” – guard Derek Fisher