The Oklahoma City Thunder's week has been filled with criticism and drama after dropping three consecutive games to the Memphis Grizzlies, going down 3-1 in the series. Now, where do they resort? Article after article saying the Thunder need to help Durant, that he can't be the team. True, but what do they do? Kevin Durant does the majority of the scoring with Russell Westbrook out, Kendrick Perkin's disappearance and Westbrook's replacements not doing as much as needed.
NBA.com's Jeff Caplan wrote an interesting article about that issue here.
In this article, Caplan explained the struggles of guard Kevin Martin and stated how he is a bust when he's needed to step up. That's exactly how it is. This is the most intense series of his career, and he doesn't know how to handle the pressure. He's been so inconsistent it doesn't pay to play him at times, but then there are times where he's unbelievably unstoppable. I for one am always skeptical when Martin steps on the court. I say to myself, "Is he going to put the ball off of his foot or start shooting lights out?" We'll see how that goes in game five, a must win for the Thunder.
Another interesting story that caught my attention was from basketball genius Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN and Henry Abbott of TrueHoop. They did a video earlier in the week, talking about the Grizzlies-Thunder series, and how it is starting to come down to political parties. Thunder represent a Republican team and the Grizzlies represent the Democratic team. The owner of the Thunder, Clay Bennett, is a huge supporter to Republican causes while Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien is a former Democratic writer.
That's a bold statement to make- that this is one of the most politically involved Playoff series ever played. How does it affect the series? It really doesn't, in my opinion. If these guys are letting their political preferences get in the way of some intense Playoff basketball, there's something wrong.
Taking a look back at game two, this was anybody's game until the final minute. Grizzlies Point Guard Mike Conley made a fool out of the Thunder's defense with 26 points, ten rebounds, and nine assists; one assist shy of a triple-double. There was another guy one assist short of a triple-double as well, and you're probably very familiar with him. The Thunder's own Kevin Durant had 36 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. That's a matchup right there. This game went back and forth until the fourth quarter, and that's when the Grizzlies took control and won the game. This was a game where Kevin Martin looked like he didn't want to be there anymore, scoring only six points and shooting 2-for-11. Ugly game, yet again for Kevin Martin. The final score was a heartbreaker, Grizzlies 99, Thunder 93.
Rewinding back to Saturday, the Thunder were back in Memphis for game three. Looking to take control of the series, the Thunder brought in the same gameplan as usual and let Kevin Durant take the lead of the team. Not sitting a second, Durant scored a below-average 25 points with 11 boards, with only two of those points coming in the fourth quarter. Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson tried to help out the cause with Martin adding 13 points and Jackson putting up 16. Still, the Thunder couldn't pull away from the Marc Gasol, who added 20 points, and the powerful Grizzlies who took the series lead 2-1 after their 87-81 victory.
The Thunder took a demanding lead in the first half of Monday's game four in Memphis, going up on the Grizzlies 56-48. Kevin Martin showed he is very capable of being a real threat off the bench, scoring eleven in the first half. Serge Ibaka added 13 while Kevin Durant added a team-leading 14. The Thunder lead by as many as 17 in the second quarter.
In the second half, the tables turned. The third quarter came to a close with the Grizzlies giving the Thunder a run for their money. The third quarter finished up in a tie, 76-76. Zach Randolph spent most of the quarter on the bench for the Grizzlies. In the fourth, the game felt like an eternity before it finished up. It was back and forth down to the wire. With less than 20 seconds to go in the game, Kevin Durant threw up slop looking for a foul and did not get one. The Thunder would then send Marc Gasol to the line who would hit both, giving the Grizzlies a two point lead with 10.9 seconds remaining. Kevin Durant received the inbound and drove straight to the lane for the finger roll to tie it up. Guess what? The game was headed to overtime.
In overtime, the Grizzlies got off to a hot start, going up 98-94. Derek Fisher quickly put the Thunder back in position with a clutch three. The Thunder continued to get chances with the score stuck at 98-97, but Kevin Durant missed two jumpers. Marc Gasol made a layup to give the Grizzlies a 100-97 lead with less than 25 seconds remaining. The Grizzlies continued to capitalize on missed opportunities by the Thunder and would win the game in overtime 103-97.
That's the dramatic week for the Oklahoma City Thunder in review. The Grizzlies lead the series 3-1. The Thunder's Playoff journey continues Wednesday as they try to hang on.
Follow me on Twitter for all #Thunder related stories!— Alex Strouf (@LetsGoAlex) May 7, 2013