The Oklahoma City Thunder went into Game 2 with a 1-0 series lead over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night. The Thunder started the game off slow, and the Grizzlies took advantage of the unusually sloppy Thunder squad. Just like last year, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph had their way in the paint. The Grizzlies’ big men forced OKC to play a different style than they are accustomed to. To make matters worse, the Thunder couldn’t seem to buy a bucket. They missed open jumpers, blew close shot attempts and failed to play solid defense when it mattered the most.
Kevin Durant wasn’t himself on Monday. He scored 36 points on the night, but he hoisted up 28 shot attempts. Russell Westbrook suffered a similar fate, scoring 29 points on 28 shot attempts as well. The usually dynamic duo just wasn’t enough to overcome the Grizzlies’ tight defense. Memphis held the Thunder’s bench to 14 points on 4-of-16 shooting on the night. Besides Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, no other Thunder player managed to score more than seven points.
You have to give the Grizz a lot of credit for coming into Loud City and dealing the Thunder their first loss of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. Thunder fans won’t be so quick to tip their hats to the Grizz, because there were a number of notable missed calls that could have ultimately sealed the Thunder’s fate on Monday night. The most relevant blown call came late in overtime as Westbrook appeared to steal the ball on an inbound attempt by the Grizzlies. Instead of being awarded with the steal and the ensuing game-tying dunk, Westbrook was called for a phantom foul and the Grizzlies would walk out of Chesapeake Energy Arena with the series tied 1-1.
Game 3 is on Thursday night, and the Thunder don’t have much time to figure out how they will respond to the upsetting loss just last night. What they do know is that they have to find an answer quick, before they find themselves in a 2-1 hole against the same team that eliminated them in last year’s playoffs. The Thunder collectively gave away Game 2 on their home court. Now they have to collectively regroup and win their next game on the road. I believe that Durant and Westbrook will continue to put this team in position to win, but the bench has to play much better than they did in Game 2. Reggie Jackson and Caron Butler play very significant roles in the Thunder’s playoff success. OKC may be able to slide away with a win if one of those two players has an off night. If both men are struggling, the Thunder is sure to find themselves in some very uncomfortable positions as the playoffs continue.