Jenni Carlson: Thunder still needs to be physical in Game 2

by Jenni Carlson Published: May 18, 2011

Hard-nosed.

The Thunder matched that style, bodying up Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, going toe to toe with Tony Allen and Shane Battier. For seven games, they pounded on the Grizzlies.

Had some of the fouls that were called Tuesday night been whistled throughout that Memphis series, the Thunder and the Grizzlies would've needed their head coaches to suit up to have enough bodies to finish some games.

“You never know how it's going to be,” Thunder enforcer Kendrick Perkins said. “It's crazy how physical it was in the Memphis series. Now, between the two teams, we had close to 80 free throws.”

Maybe the answer to the fouling woes in Game 1 is a Memphis hangover. Maybe it is the Thunder's inability to contain the Mavs without breaking the rules. Or maybe it is what Perkins mentioned — both the Thunder and the Mavs got whistled for a bunch of no-nos.

The whistle-happy officiating went both ways, with the Mavs being called for one more foul than the Thunder and Oklahoma City shooting seven more free throws than Dallas.

That indicates that these two teams had an officiating crew that was calling the game tightly. It wanted to keep things under control. It wanted to set a tone for the series.

Mission accomplished.

But that doesn't mean the Thunder should make wholesale changes. It still needs to be physical. It just needs to eliminate the dumb, ticky-tack fouls. There's a difference, after all, between adjusting to the officiating and scrapping your identity.

Dirk and the Mavs can make the tote board roll faster than the one at a Jerry Lewis telethon.

The Thunder simply cannot afford to back off.

“We've just got to keep playing our brand of basketball, which is playing tough on defense,” Sefolosha said. “That's what we're going to do.”

That, and praying for some leniency from the whistle-toting guys in gray.


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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