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Nuggets from my notebook: Grizzlies 88, Thunder 84

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: May 16, 2013 at 10:05 am •  Published: May 16, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s series-clinching Game 5 loss to Memphis.

  • Shame it had to end like this.
  • You can only wonder what would have been had Russell Westbrook been healthy. Instead, the inevitable finally happened tonight.
  • All things considered, this was a great season. Nothing to be ashamed about. Division champs. Sixty wins. Best record in the conference. The best regular season in the OKC era even after James Harden was traded five days beforehand. A second round appearance even after Westbrook went down two games into the first round.
  • “We had a really good season,” said Kevin Durant.
  • More Durant: “It’s tough to swallow now, but I’m sure we’re going to look back on this down the line and really appreciate this tough time.”
  • No need to panic. No need for big changes or major shakeups. Though it might not feel like it right now, this team doesn’t need it. All it needs is a healthy right knee. Get that back and the Thunder is back in business. Back to dominance. Back to being a championship contender. Back to having a bright future.
  • In the meantime, we learned a lot about this group without Westbrook. We learned that Reggie Jackson is ready to break out, possibly as a Most Improved and Sixth Man candidate next year. We learned that Durant does need help and that Westbrook is indeed the best fit for him. We learned that Kevin Martin doesn’t fit, that Scott Brooks can and will bench Kendrick Perkins, that the Thunder’s system is serviceable for the regular season but shaky come the postseason and that Serge Ibaka has many more strides left to take.
  • As for Game 5, we saw a predictable outcome that was more of the same from the previous three games. Memphis controlled the game, almost from start to finish and exposed almost every one of the Thunder’s weaknesses: defensive rebounding, ball security, halfcourt offense and Durant’s help.
  • The offense will take care of itself. That’s what we were told all season. In good times and bad. After both wins and losses. In sickness and in health. But it again struggled on the biggest stage, against one of the league’s best and brightest defenses. Westbrook or no Westbrook, the offense is a problem. Not in the regular season. But in the playoffs. Call it what you will: free-flowing, organized chaos or hero ball. It’s not a recipe for winning big.
  • The lack of movement opposite the ball by the Thunder during several stretches, especially in the first half, was downright embarrassing and truly a disservice to Durant.
  • A terrible second quarter tonight. The Thunder allowed the Grizzlies to start the period on an 11-1 run before being outscored 32-15. OKC made just four of 19 shots in the quarter.
  • OKC’s last field goal in the first half came with 6:14 remaining in the second quarter.
  • By the end of the first half, the Grizzlies had turned a five-point deficit into a 12-point advantage, wiping out all the momentum the Thunder might have gained from a second consecutive quality start.
  • The Thunder’s first bucket: an Ibaka 3-pointer from the top of the key at the shot clock buzzer. Not a bad start.
  • The Thunder’s next bucket: a short hook from Perk. Definitely felt like the Thunder’s night.
  • Durant started the game 0-for-6. His first field goal came with 1:02 remaining in the opening quarter. Just an all around rough night for him.
  • “Memphis is a really, really good team, and they made it tough on us every one of these games,” Durant said. “I gave it all I had for my team. I left it all out there on the floor. I missed 16 shots, but I kept fighting and I kept being aggressive. That’s all I can ask for.”
  • KD had a great look at a potential game-tying bucket with five seconds left. But it went long after he made a fantastic move to free himself from Tony Allen. Story of KD’s night.
  • “I made a good move,” Durant said of his final shot. “I pulled up and missed the shot. I was just thinking ‘Just try to get an open shot…I was able to get a good look. It was just too long.”
  • OKC started the game daring Allen and Tayshaun Prince to shoot. It was a subtle adjustment and a good sign. No more flying out and biting on pump fakes.
  • Ibaka got off to another strong start, scoring nine points with five rebounds in the first quarter. Along with Durant, he played all 12 minutes of the first quarter.
  •  

    Scott Brooks stuck with Ibaka and Durant to start the second quarter. Couldn’t blame him. It was needed. Big game.

  • Yes, this was a really poorly officiated game.
  • Nobody suffered more from the erratic officiating than Nick Collison.
  • Rarely is Collison as frustrated as he was tonight. He was getting called for the slightest contact on one end while the refs swallowed their whistles on contact he took at the other.
  • It was fun while it lasted, Derek Fisher.
  • I wonder what the Thunder will do with him next year. His contract is up and the Thunder will have open roster spots. He proved he still has value, both on and off the court. But will he settle for a lesser role next season? Is bringing him back too risky given Brooks’ burning desire to have him on the floor and the youth movement that needs to be made at some point? All questions that will soon have answers.
  • Fisher’s touchdown pass to K-Mart at the end of the first quarter — sweet.
  • Fisher’s inbound passes — disastrous.
  • Jerryd Bayless will shoot anything. Any time. From anywhere.
  •  

    Bayless even banked in a three-quarters court, one-handed shot just after the third quarter buzzer.

  • I could live with Durant’s off shooting night. It happens. And he didn’t get much help, from teammates or the “offense that will take care of itself.” But Durant did way too much complaining tonight. Even if most of it was warranted, he should have let it go. This was a closeout game, a game in which his teammates, more than perhaps any other game, were going to follow his lead. But his body language was bad from the start. After the first few calls didn’t go his way Durant seemed to be mentally fazed. He’s got to turn that frustration into a positive. He didn’t tonight.
  •  

    Memphis’ first turnover came on a Tayshaun Prince traveling violation with 5:25 left in the first half. It’s amazing how good Memphis is at taking care of the ball. The Grizzlies finished with just 10 turnovers, which led to only nine points for the Thunder.

  • The Grizzlies scored 22 points off 14 Thunder turnovers.
  • Ibaka started this game 4-for-6. Earlier in the third quarter, he was 4-for-12. He finished 8-for-17.
  • Jackson’s stat line: 16 points, 7-for-15 shooting, nine rebounds, five assists, zero turnovers, 42 minutes. Say hello to your new sixth man, Oklahoma.
  • Tony Allen threw a T-shirt at Fisher to distract him while Fish was attempting a 3 in front of the Grizzlies bench. It was one of the most bizarre plays you’ll ever see. Fish missed the shot, but I guess there’s a rule that awards the basket on such boneheaded actions. And because Allen was T’d up, the trip ended in a four-point play.
  • Memphis coach Lionel Hollins on what he said to Allen after the shirt toss: “The same thing I said to him when he didn’t block out Durant on a shot, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ That was huge. They counted the three points and then they got a free throw. That’s a four-point play and from that point on I think we scored four more points in the quarter.”
  • Thabo Sefolosha made nearly 42 percent of his 3-pointers this season. He was 2-for-10 from downtown in this series.
  • Mike Conley is fantastic. One of the most underrated players in the league. He’s not a top five point guard.
  • The Thunder needs some toughness. Westbrook is by far the fiercest, nastiest, meanest player on the roster. Everybody else is too nice. There’s no edge to this team. OKC is either going to out-athlete you or outscore you. But next year’s team needs some nasty. I’m looking at you, Ronny Turiaf. Find a way, Sam Presti, to lure Reggie Evans from Brooklyn. Rebounds and toughness. The Thunder’s got to have it.
  • Exit interviews are coming up Thursday and Friday. Here’s hoping K-Mart doesn’t tell us how much he’s willing to sacrifice to remain here before signing somewhere for $8 mil per in August.

-DM-


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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