Little glitches will get teams, including Thunder, beat in the playoffs

Memphis can add its name to the number of tough teams in the wild Western Conference.
by Jenni Carlson Published: April 2, 2012

Now comes the reality check.

A day after the Thunder slapped around the Bulls and served notice that it was the team to beat in the NBA, its feel-good run came to an abrupt halt.

Grizzlies 94, Thunder 88.

Effort wasn't the problem. Neither was defense or shot selection. Even though turnovers were too plentiful and transition points were too scarce, this game really boiled down to the Thunder not making enough plays to win.

“They made some big shots down the stretch,” Thunder star Kevin Durant said, “and that's the game.”

And this time of year, a game like this is a reminder of how thin the difference between winning and losing is in the NBA. Not quite being able to get to a loose ball. Not quite rotating quickly enough to guard a 3-point shooter. Those small things can get you beat.

They got the Thunder beat Monday night.

And in the playoffs, they will get any team beat, especially when you play in the Western Conference.

Memphis is a reminder of the type of teams that await Oklahoma City in the postseason. The Grizzlies have a stout squad that scraps and claws and fights.

And yet, they're fighting for a playoff spot in the West. They are sitting fifth in the conference, but they are only a game and a half ahead of eighth-place Houston and only three games ahead of ninth-place Utah.

With the exception of the Thunder and the Spurs, any Western Conference team that hits a losing skid in the next two weeks risks losing its playoff spot.

The West will be a bear in the playoffs.

If the Thunder finishes first, a possible first-round series against the Rockets awaits. In case you've forgotten, the Rockets split the four-game season series with the Thunder.

And if it's not Houston in that eighth spot, Utah and Phoenix are possible replacements. Nothing easy about facing either of those teams.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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