Allow us a moment to collectively exhale; this series will be competitive from both sides. When it seems like the world is closing in, sometimes it is easy to forget the fact that the Thunder throughout the season showed remarkable resiliency in avoiding losing streaks. They leaned on that experience last night, made their adjustments, and exhibited their competitive advantages.
Now I just need to figure out what I'm going to do for the rest of the week.
Mayberry gives the game ball to Nick Collison. Hey, when you shut down the "best power forward in the game," that deserves some recognition.
Young notes the extended play that the Thunder bench got as a result of their stellar performance. They must continue to stay aggressive.
SB Nation's Grizz blog take a look at how their team did not meet up to the challenges last night. They give high praise to the Thunder interior defense.
People are taking notice of the many advantages the Thunder has this season in their bench. It has been one of the biggest untold stories this year - as both Durant and Westbrook have struggled at times, the bench rarely has.
Hollinger comments about last night's game. I think he has reduced the match-up correctly:
"The facts of this series, though, are this: If the Thunder can fight the Grizzlies to a draw on the scrappiness front, or something close to it, they'll win. They're the more skilled team, undoubtedly. As a result, the rebounds, turnovers and points in the paint have to be dramatically in Memphis' favor -- as they were in the Grizzlies' surprise Game 1 win."
The Thunder players spoke extensively about their renewed focus and energy, as well as the job Collison did. Said Kendrick Perkins:
"Nick did what he do."
More links after the jump.
Truehoop's Grizzlies blog chimes in on what happened last night. The writer makes a great point - the Grizz are probably a bit gassed after playing three grit-grind playoff games in five days. It will be interesting to see their energy level on Saturday.
It is worth noting that Kevin Durant, despite his struggles this season, has never had the kind of scrutiny and criticism that Westbrook has. Blinebury does a good job pointing out what we suggested - Russ needs to transfer his emotions into his defense, not his offense. Good things can and will happen.
Randolph, who thrives on offensive efficiency, was anything but that last night.
I think the writer is putting a little too much stock in how the game ended. I would have loved to see the Thunder put forth the same kind of defensive effort in the 4th as they had the rest of the game, and they were coasting in the end. Even so, I can't really call those last six minutes a "Grizzlies comeback." OKC was just trying to bleed out the clock.
This post was written before last night's game, but I think it is still worth reading because Dwyer does a good job leveling the playing field of expectations regarding Rose and Westbrook. Also keep in mind the fact that these two are playing in the Chris Paul era, and when you compare anyone to Paul's offensive orchestrations you are likely to be found wanting in one area or another.
Carlson writes about Westbrook's solid game last night. It is encouraging to me to see how his teammates have rallied around him. They know that his presence is essential to their championship aspirations.
Here is an early Mother's Day moment. For all the debate around who deserved the MVP the most this season, one thing we can't shake is the fact that Derrick Rose is solid young guy who is an asset to the Bulls and to the entire league.
There are Cinderella stories in sports, and then there's Zach Randolph, who probably got Cinderella pregnant during an orgy at a Portland strip club, disappeared for six years without a second word, and then turned into the world's best dad. Where amazing happens, indeed.
The casual fans are coming around on the great display of competition in these first two rounds. It would be a shame if something happened to it.