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Nuggets from my notebook: Grizzlies 87, Thunder 81

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: May 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm •  Published: May 12, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Saturday’s Game 3 loss at Memphis.

  • This space came close to being filled with details on how the Thunder weathered three storms in Memphis on Saturday night and got out of Game 3 with a mandatory road win. Instead, a second straight game of sloppy late-game execution stole the positive angle and resulted in a 2-1 series hole for the Thunder.
  • “Do it differently, and it might be a different story, a different headline,” said Reggie Jackson of the team’s costly crunch time plays.
  • There were six in all, two by Jackson. All came in the final 91 seconds.
    1. Jackson barreled over Mike Conley. Charge.
    2. Serge Ibaka let an offensive rebound slip through his hands.
    3. Jackson gave an ill-advised foul on Conley, who made the Thunder pay by sinking two free throws.
    4. Kevin Durant missed a pair of foul shots that would have cut the Grizzlies lead to two with 39.3 seconds left.
    5. Derek Fisher jacked a hurried and questionable 28-footer.
    6. Ibaka allowed another offensive rebound to slip out of his paws.
  • “We live to fight another day,” Durant said. “That’s the good thing about the playoffs. We came in this building, which is a tough building to play in, and we played hard all the way to the end. There’s no moral victories. I’m not trying to say anything like that. But we came in here and fought and put ourselves in a position to win the basketball game. It just didn’t happen that way.”
  • What makes this one so much tougher to swallow is the Thunder did the things it needed to do. OKC took better care of the ball (which wasn’t exactly hard to do after Game 2) and rebounded. One game after gobbling up 16 offensive rebounds, the Grizzlies got just five. After they scored 23 second chance points in Game 2, the Grizzlies got just three tonight.
  • OKC turned it over just 14 times tonight after giving it up 21 times Tuesday.
  • It’s a broken record at this point. The role players have got to step up. The problem is things are getting worse not better. Every other Thunder player not named Durant or Jackson combined to shoot 16 of 54.
  • Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins started the game a combined 0-for-9.
  • Ibaka turned in more terrific defense on Zach Randolph, helping to hold him to eight points on 4-for-12 shooting. So there’s something to be said for that. His offense has disappeared in this series, and that’s become easy to focus on. But he’s progressed as a positional defender and supplied great low-post defense in all three games.
  • Perk is another one. His offense has been brutal, and many want to criticize him for that end of the floor without taking into account what he brings at the other end. But the numbers don’t lie. The Thunder’s defense is better with Perk on the floor. Tonight, his minutes were limited largely because Marc Gasol didn’t play much in the second quarter and the Thunder played small for much of the remainder of the game.
  • To start the second half, the Thunder switched Perk onto Randolph and Ibaka onto Gasol. I have no idea whose decision that was. But it wasn’t very bright. Perk has been doing a terrific job on Gasol, and Ibaka has done extremely well defending Randolph. But instead of sticking to what’s working — Lord knows there’s a ton that needs to be scrapped that isn’t working — the Thunder inexplicably changed things up. It led to Gasol coming out and torching Ibaka for two quick buckets and then draining another jumper on Perk. Just an adjustment I didn’t understand.
  • About those things that aren’t working. The starting lineup. It’s gotten the Thunder off to bad starts more often than not in the first and third periods. Not just in this series. But also in the Rockets series. Last year, we all knew how problematic the starting unit was, particularly on the offensive end. This season, things were much more balanced. But that was with Westbrook in the fold. Without him, the Thunder’s first string has regressed. Jackson has played as well as can be expected but he’s not tag-teaming with Durant like Westbrook was to atone for weaknesses in Sefolosha, Perk and Ibaka’s offensive games. The result has been bad start after bad start in the first and third quarters.
  • Perk, Ibaka and Sefolosha combined to miss their first nine shots. Somehow, the Thunder survived that woeful start and trailed just 12-11. That was the first storm the Thunder weathered.
  • The first field goal from one of the three of Ibaka, Perk and Sefolosha didn’t come until 7:28 remained in the second quarter.
  • The Thunder sat Durant at the start of the second quarter. It was a pretty gutsy move considering OKC had made only seven field goals in the first quarter. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work. Memphis was plus-4 in the two minutes and change that KD sat. Those four additional points felt like 14 in this slug-fest. But it was only four. That was the second bullet OKC dodged.
  • The starting lineup again sputtered out of the gate for the second half. This time, OKC made just one field goal in the first seven minutes and change of the third period. Memphis went on a 13-5 run to start the period, which, in this game felt more like a 25-0 run. As bad as it looked and felt, the Thunder’s one-point halftime lead had turned into only a seven-point deficit. Another crisis averted.
  • The Thunder was 4-for-20 in the third quarter and scored just 15 points.
  • Given all the issues the Thunder had, the fact that OKC even was in this game seemed like a minor miracle.
  • Sefolosha started the game on Conley. It helped limit Conley. But the Thunder can’t be optimistic about losing Game 3 after resorting to one of the few “tricks” it had up its sleeve.
  • Conley did struggle. After dominating Game 2, he had just 14 points on 3-for-9 shooting with six assists and four turnovers in Game 3.
  • Jackson had to be more assertive and he was. He attacked from the start. Good sign. He let up in the third quarter, though, and said he felt like that hurt his team. In that third quarter, Jackson scored two points, took only two shots and had two rebounds with zero assists in 10 minutes, 23 seconds.
  • Yes. Ibaka missed two dunks in this one.
  • After the game, everyone from Scott Brooks to Durant chalked up the loss on simply missing shots. Selling that line would be much easier if this was a one game occurrence, not a trend for the first three games of a series. At some point, there’s a reason teams miss shots, whether it’s the wrong people are shooting the wrong shots, a player is slumping, injured or fresh out of confidence, or the opponent forces you into a tough shooting night. For all we know, the Thunder might be battling all of the above in this series. Saying they simply missed shots is fine. For them to possibly believe it — Ibaka’s botched dunks aside — even after 12 quarters of evidence would be worrisome. Not only does it suggest the Thunder will keep striving to get those same shots, but players and Brooks actually have said as much. Leads you to believe little will be done to put players in better positions to get better looks at the basket.
  • Generally, when a shooter’s shot is not falling what does he do? Try to get to the rack, right? Get a layup or a foul called. Ibaka, though, just keeps shooting. It’s one thing to remain confident in yourself and your shot. But there comes a time when you have to face the music and admit when something is broke and try to find a way to fix it. Ditto for the Thunder’s offense in this series.
  • Did you know that the Thunder hasn’t led by more than five points in any game of this series? It’s true. OKC’s biggest lead in Game 1 was four. The biggest lead in Game 2 was five. The biggest lead in Game 3 was three.
  • Memphis’ biggest lead by game: 12, nine and 10.
  • Wondering if the Thunder will use KD on Gasol for longer stretches. Not sure it’s something the Thunder can bank on Durant doing effectively for a larger chunk of the game. The Grizzlies figure to exploit that if OKC sticks with it too long. But when KD is covering Gasol with relative success he’s doing it in a small lineup that gives the Thunder its best chance of scoring.
  • Tony Allen: X-factor…on offense! He had 11 first-half points, most of them coming from hustle plays and smart movement and timely movement that got him easy baskets or trips to the foul line. Allen finished with 14 points, one more than Ibaka and Kevin Martin each had. That can’t happen.
  • Up next. Game 4 on Monday night.

-DM-

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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