Rain swamped the Memorial Marathon. Cold struck the Arts Festival. The Grizzlies punched the Thunder in the gut.
Bad MayDay in Oklahoma City.
But the marathon finished. The arts festival was on its last day. The Thunder has to wrestle the Grizzlies at least three more times.
The Boomers had better toughen up.
That's what beat the Thunder 114-101 Sunday. Memphis toughness. The Grizzlies were tougher than OKC.
Tougher with the ball. Tougher on defense. Tougher at the rim.
“We didn't have any energy,” Kevin Durant said. “They played harder than us. They fought harder than us. It's a long series. We gotta come out with more fight the next game.”
Mandatory, I'd say, if the Thunder wants to avoid a four-game sweep.
“They were more physical than us, from bigs to small,” said Kendrick Perkins, words that pained the Thunder enforcer to say.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins threw the Thunder a mental life-preserver, saying that while the Grizzlies came off a rock'em-sock'em series against the Spurs, the Thunder had more of a racehorse series with the Nuggets, so it might take OKC a game or two to adjust.
“As the series goes on, I'm sure they'll catch up,” Hollins said of Memphis' physical nature.
But toughness comes in many packages. Toughness isn't just brute force.
The Thunder has to be tougher with the ball. The turnover ratio was absurd; 18-8. That's 10 extra possessions for Memphis. And don't blame it all on Russell Westbrook's seven. Durant, who otherwise played wonderfully, had three turnovers in the first quarter.
Several times, this game looked like fifth-graders at recess. The Grizzlies would just grab the ball out of Thunder hands. And schoolyard bully Tony Allen was more docile than usual. What happens when he gets cranking for Memphis?
The Thunder defense was just awful. The Thunder actually scratched back and made this a game, 63-60 midway through the third quarter and even got the ball back.
But Allen stole a lazy Serge Ibaka pass, and the Grizzlies scored on eight of their next nine possessions. Lot of that was Zach Randolph, but the finale of that spree was a 3-pointer by Shane Battier, who caught the ball wide open in transition, didn't want to shoot, didn't want to shoot, then seemed to say, OK, if you insist.
“I thought we were a step slow in a lot of areas,” said Thunder coach Scotty Brooks. “We reacted instead of being aggressive.”
Forget the Grizzlies' offensive rebounding prowess. The Thunder almost matched it. With Ibaka and Westbrook and Durant crashing the boards, that's the least of OKC's problems. Memphis outscored the Thunder just 22-18 in second-chance points.
A turnover discrepancy, the Thunder will have to live with. Westbrook can't have seven and the Thunder 18. Lessen the pain; cut it to four for Westbrook and 13 total.
But the defense, that's correctible and has to change now. No more Marc Gasol going 9-for-11, 4-for-4 on foul line jumpers. Perkins said Gasol surprised him, but no surprises now. Gasol has got to be defended.
And Memphis point guard Mike Conley has to be ridden harder. Westbrook's defense was OK, but it has to improve. Conley had seven assists and no turnovers. The Thunder has to get Conley out of his comfort zone, otherwise he will dish to the apparently unstoppable Randolph or the NBA's best Gasol in the 2011 postseason.
The Grizzlies have some physical superiority, but so does the Thunder. Durant, obviously. But Westbrook, too. He's got to dominate Conley, and despite a 29-15 point advantage for Westbrook, Conley's ball security played a huge role. Westbrook's going to commit turnovers, so he needs to cause some, too.
Toughen up, that's what Westbrook has to do. He and all his teammates, else this is going to be a short series the wrong way.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.