It is amazing how quickly one can go from mountains of self-assurance to self-doubt, isn't it? As I've viewed the NBA over the course of my lifetime, I've found myself in this position many times. I've seen a multitude of Game Six losses that usher in a Game Seven, but it is rare that I've seen a team fold up like the Thunder did last night. This nemesis they face is themselves, and the best and worst thing about sports is the feeling we have while we wait to see whether the nemesis will fall.
Mayberry writes up his assessment of what happened in the second half, and from his perch he saw it equal parts Scott Brooks and Kevin Durant. The one guy who has completely redeemed himself in this series though is Russell Westbrook, and he will again be instrumental in Game Seven.
Young writes about the Thunder's 2nd half collapse, but encourages not to lose hope. The Thunder earned a margin for error that the Grizzlies did not have, and that reward comes tomorrow. Also as an aside, props to the Grizzlies fans, who according to Young stood for most of the second half to cheer their team on.
Tramel writes about how Kevin Durant disappeared in the 2nd half. While Durant's uneven play in these playoffs has been frustrating to watch at times, I think we need to maintain perspective on where he is as a pro. To be the man he wants to be (and we want him to be), Durant has to go through trials like this one. Unless a man goes through failure, he will never know how hard he has to push to attain victory.
In the game within the game, Lionel Hollins and Scott Brooks continue to trade tactical jabs. Last night, Hollins countered with O.J. Mayo starting ahead of Sam Young and Brooks could not counter it. Hollins showed a willingness to upset his team's chemistry because he felt it was the step necessary to tie the series, and Hollins' move paid off. Let's see if Brooks has an answer.
Hollinger gets the Dime duty for this one, and writes about how the Grizzlies were better at creating spacing for Zach Randolph. They were able to do this through the play of O.J. Mayo, who had a huge bounce-back game.
Mannix agrees with Hollinger that the exceptional play of Mayo stretched the Thunder defense in a way in which it did not have to before. I think that on top of that, the Thunder were just not ready to come out and challenge the shooters. They had gotten so comfortable in sitting back and collapsing the lane that when they were forced to deal with Mayo's outside shooting, they were not mentally prepared. As a result, the stretched defense did not respond well to either the perimeter play or the thing that the perimeter was truly designed to do, which was free up Randolph.
Apropos of nothing, I'm enjoying this guy Geoff Calkins every time he writes something, and once again he allows the players themselves to craft his story. I love this quote by Shane Battier in describing the Grizzlies' half-time adjustment:
"Sometimes, you just look at each other in the locker room and you know you're doing yourself an injustice"
This is the exact sentiment that the Thunder guys need to have if they are going to rebound from such a dispiriting loss.