Scott Brooks knows the importance of the first win in a series is putting the other team in a hole while his Oklahoma City Thunder play with less sense of urgency.
However, the Thunder won Game One of the NBA Finals last season against the Miami Heat before losing four straight and letting the series get away from them. The Thunder are a much different team this season than they were last year in the playoffs. I say they are much different not because of talent, but because they are missing many key pieces from last year.
Last year, the Thunder had the best sixth man in the NBA in James Harden before losing him to the Houston Rockets in the offseason, via trade. Also, they are going to have to play the rest of the playoffs without their star point guard and one of the team’s leaders, Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook was the team leader in shots taken this season and averaged over 20 points a game, making for a big loss after suffering a knee injury in the first round.
The Thunder’s title hopes have taken a hit because of the injury, going 3-2 since the star’s departure.
While they may no longer be considered favorites to win the title, a win in Game One of a tough series against one of the league’s up-and-coming teams, the Memphis Grizzlies, means everything for the Thunder.
Winning the first game means that the pressure is off of the Thunder’s shoulders and onto the Grizzlies’ shoulders.
The Thunder are still a good team, but without Westbrook, they may have to wait yet another year for an NBA title. However, when Kevin Durant is scoring 35+ points per game, anything is possible.