There’s no question the Oklahoma City Thunder have faced a worthy foe in the stout defense and solid offense of the Memphis Grizzlies, but in Game Six with their backs to the wall, it was the Thunder’s defense that won the game. It’s that defense that will take them to the NBA Finals.
Defense wins championships, we all know that, but in the NBA it’s not completely true. You absolutely have to score in today’s NBA, and the Thunder are usually one of the best in the league at racking up points. However, the Thunder like to score in batches created in transition with high tempo and a spread-out floor, and the best way to get those opportunities is through great defense.
Against the Grizzlies in the first round, the Thunder have struggled mightily. My prediction for the Thunder heading to the finals might sound crazy after suffering through this first round, and they’re still not out of the woods, but understand that it’s this Thunder team that can make it, not the one that played in the earlier games. This Thunder team plays defense first, and scores when given the chance. It’s that simple.
Also, in Game Six the Thunder won the free throw battle hands-down. In the first half, before the Thunder went on a run that they would hold onto through the entire game, free throws were the main difference.
Kevin Durant had a solid game, and Russell Westbrook showed up with high energy, but it was also guys like Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka making plays that helped give the Thunder their momentum in the first half.
If the Thunder can play strong defense and get contributions from their role players, they could get to the Finals despite such a shaky start to the NBA Playoffs.