Correction: The link to "Zach Randolph Takes On All Comers" was incorrectly attributed to ESPN in the text. The link went to the proper site, but proper attribution belongs to Michael Pina and his excellent NBA blog "Shaky Ankles." We regret the error.
We can call today Game Four, or we can, in current Thunder parlance, refer to today as, "the day that Thunder nation panicked, chapter 2." There is a lot to think about today, both for the Thunder as well as the rest of the league.
Mayberry writes that this series has boiled down into coaching maneuvers. Scott Brooks crafted a brilliant defensive game plan in games two and three, and Lionel Hollins countered with his own defensive adjustments to help usher in the Thunder's Game Three collapse. The next move needs to come from Brooks regarding 4th quarter offense, but therein lies the rub - Brooks may not have a piece to play.
Young dares to go where most Thunder fans dread - he re-watched the end of the 4th quarter and broke down how the Thunder offense ground to a halt.
Mayberry checks in to see how the Thunder's collective psyche is doing. Evaluating Game Three is difficult. On the one hand, you have 3.5 quarters of really, really good playoff basketball. The team was doing everything it needed to do to win. And on the other hand, you have the last six minutes of the 4th, where the Thunder could not put themselves in a position to win.
Prada once again knocks it out of the park in this analysis of Dirk. He is now in his 13th year in the league, and what I find amazing is he is about four years removed from people having completely written him off as a contender. However, if you've been watching these last two series, he's demonstrated that he has been the best player on any court in these playoffs.
O.J. Mayo has had quite the rocky season, but it was his defense late in the game that enabled the Grizzlies to pull out the win. Snarkily, I'd probably also add that Scott Brooks' line-up helped out a bit with that one.
More links after the jump.
If you're looking for some encouragement, this story should give some. We cannot forget that, for 7.5 quarters, the Grizzlies were playing losing basketball. It took a remarkable letdown by the Thunder to give them renewed hope.
Now, here is the reality check. The Thunder are now 5-2 against the Grizzlies this season. What is even worse is that Saturday's game actually had a great deal in common with the three regular season losses. The Thunder led most of the way, then fell apart in the 4th.
Check out the post-game quotes and fall-out at SB Nation's wonderful Mavs blog. Included is a clip of the flagrant-2 foul that Andrew Bynum put on J.J. Barea, which, and I would agree with Mike Tirico, is one of the worst cheap shots I've ever seen.
This post was actually written before last night's Laker beat-down, but it is still remarkable because it all but predicted the outcome. On a day when we're actively pondering whether the Thunder have the resolve to fight after last game's meltdown, it is important to remember that even the most decorated team of the past decade frequently demonstrated a lack of fight. It is a quality that is difficult to come by.
In case you missed it, in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics got their first win of the series against the Heat. Rajon Rondo, who has received every bit as much scrutiny as Russell Westbrook, played most of the second half with a dislocated left elbow. It was so bad that his arm was all but unusable - he competed and won playing with only one arm.
Former Thunder favorite Jeff Green finally offered some good value in this highly competitive series with the Heat. Much to the Celtics Nation's delight, it was Green's defense on LeBron James that helped Celtics get back into it.
Here is a ranking by position of this year's top dunkers. Guess who is the starting PG?
Beckley Mason writes about the developing relationship between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and how they have learned to work together. The main argument against their playing together is similar to many of the arguments we have heard this year against Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. However, James and Wade essentially play the same position, and if they can commit to making their situation work, then I think Russ and KD can as well.
I'm a bit late on this one, but this is a great analysis on how Zach Randolph has fared against the other top-flight power forwards in the game.
This article may seem like a throw-away, but in the shadow of Saturday's meltdown, it is as important as anything that the Thunder practiced on the court. The players need to find their center again.
Marc Berman explains why he abstained from voting for Blake Griffin in this year's Rookie of the Year award. His argument is reasonable, and I personally don't care very much about things like these, but I think there is something to be found problematic about reporters who decide to ignore the rules of a voting competition.