The Fedex Forum in Memphis, Tenn. has not been a welcoming place for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The exact opposite can be said for the Memphis Grizzlies, who have won 15 straight at home, and Thursday night was no different. In a hard fought battle, the Grizzlies were once again victorious by a score of 98-95.
Many see the Memphis defense as a big reason why they have been able to pull off this unexpected swing in the series; and that may very well be true, but there is a little more to it than that. In last night’s game, the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played significant minutes and controlled possession of the ball for most of the night. Each of them finished with 30 points respectively, and Durant played nearly 50 minutes.
If the Thunder are looking for a solution they must start with their supporting cast. Only one other starter broke double figures in scoring, which was Serge Ibaka with 12 points. They will need bigger production from Ibaka because he is a very capable scorer and rebounder. If Ibaka can take a little scoring pressure off of Westbrook and Durant, it may just loosen up the team so they are not frantically searching for a basket.
Another issue is bench production. The bench output for the Thunder totaled a whopping nine points on the night. Caron Butler, who they hand-picked specifically for situations like this, scored zero points in 21 minutes of action. That is just unacceptable.
Oklahoma City and head coach Scott Brooks cannot expect Durant and Westbrook to carry the offensive load all by themselves. They need help fast or Memphis will continue to wear them down sooner rather than later.