One down, three to go.
The Thunder played roughly 34 minutes of terrific, dynamic basketball, but a third quarter slip allowed the Grizzlies to not just get back in the game for a brief moment, but affirm to themselves that they can play with OKC.
So… what caused the drastic collapse?
“It’s on me, man. I’ve got to a do a better job,” Russell Westbrook said Sunday. “I turned the ball over a few times. Pace got real slow. I was lagging. It won’t happen again. It was my fault.”
Here are the Thunder’s first nine possessions of the third:
- 11:11, Perk turnover
- 10:45, Perk turnover (bad pass)
- 10:18, Russell Westbrook missed 18-foot jumper
- 9:49, Kevin Durant missed deep 3
- 9:10, Westbrook missed 16-foot jumper, Ibaka puts it back
- 8:41, Durant makes a jumper, set up by Westbrook
- 7:54, Westbrook turnover
- 7:20, Westbrook turnover
- 6:54, Westbrook misses a wild 3-pointer
And it didn’t get better from there. The third quarter resulted in just 13 points for the Thunder, with only three made baskets and five turnovers. Durant went 1-4 with a giveaway, Westbrook 0-5 with two. Westbrook took responsibility for the lull both last night and again today, saying Sunday it was a focus issue.
“Not if you want to win a championship, it ain’t,” Westbrook said when asked if remaining focused is sometimes a challenge. “As a point guard that’s what I want to do. I’ve got to do a better job being focused. Especially the start of third quarters, coming out of halftime. That’s normally when teams relax and we were that team.”
The intensity was noticeably different between the first and third, but a lot of that was also due to how the Grizzlies responded with a rebuilt offense and a re-discovered force. The Grizzlies played soft in the first half. They played tough and mean in the second.
Which is what can be expected over the next few nights. The Grizzlies won’t let this be easy. And any lapses, particularly when things move away from OKC, could be costly.
On if the Grizzlies got too many interior looks: “Nah, that’s their game. We can’t stop them from doing everything. We can just make it tough for ’em. They’re going to get their attempts up … they’re going to get their shots. They’re All-Stars, they’re NBA players. We’ve just got to do a better job making it tough for them.”
On Caron Butler’s dunk: “Yeah I did. I asked him during the year, ‘Would you ever dunk?’ He said, ‘Yeah I won’t dunk until the playoffs.’ So the first playoff game, he dunked, so that was fun.”
On the hot start: “It was great energy, great effort, a lot of great execution. The fans weren’t as good as I would’ve have liked.” (Tongue firmly in cheek, of course.)