In the past week, both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have said they believe the media is trying to pull the Thunder apart.
Westbrook’s comments came at Friday’s practice, when responding to a variety of questions about the Thunder’s recent shot selection.
“I ain’t trying to hear all that, man,” Westbrook said. “Don’t try to pull us apart. We’re all in this together.”
When pressed further, Westbrook remained testy.
“When nobody’s not getting shots, or nobody’s not getting this and that, y’all try to find the reason in between all of us to try to find whose fault it is when we lost as a team,” Westbrook said. “We ain’t lose, no one person didn’t lose, we all lost.”
FRUSTRATION NOT SEEPING IN
Despite two straight deflating overtime losses, the Thunder didn’t show any signs of frustration at Friday’s practice. Instead, the atmosphere was filled with positivity and a widespread confidence that this 2-1 series hole can be erased.
“Obviously it’s some things we got to clean up,” said Thunder center Kendrick Perkins. “But you win one game and it’s back in your favor. We got two more games at home. So if we win this game, then the series is tied up and the whole series change. So at the end of the day, it ain’t too late. We can fix it and get better. I don’t think it’s nothing necessarily that they’re doing. I think we’re just beating ourselves right now so we got to clean that up.”
The late fourth-quarter rallies the Thunder used in Games 2 and 3 to force overtimes are reasons the Thunder is confident.
“We’re good,” Westbrook said. “It’d be different if we got blown out or if we feel we didn’t have a chance to win. We’re in a good place. The way we ended the game (Thursday) obviously wasn’t the way we wanted to. But the way we fought back shows that we can play a certain way that we need to play.”
DURANT’S BLOCK PARTY
Lost in the Thunder’s three-point overtime loss in Game 3 was Durant recording a playoff-career-high five blocked shots. On two other occasions in his career, Durant finished with four blocked shots in a playoff game.
“Any time you can take away some possessions from those guys it’s good, especially in the playoffs,” Durant said of the Grizzlies. “I just tried to do my best to play as hard as I can; leave it all out there. I left it all out there last game. Unfortunately we lost, but it’s one of those things you can learn from and just try to be better next game.”
Following another Grizzlies win and another inefficient performance by Durant, Tony Allen was asked if he had the blueprint to stopping the league’s best scorer.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a blueprint on him,” Allen said. “I’ve been competing with elites my career. I look at a guy like Paul Pierce who I came up under, just watching him and seeing what he do.
“I felt the first day I got in this league, if I could stick (Pierce), I could stick about just about anybody in this league.”
Allen has a history of slowing down some of the world’s best scorers. Perkins recalled Allen’s defensive performance on a certain Hall of Famer in the 2008 Finals when they played together in Boston.
“He came in and gave Kobe Bryant the blues for his defensive effort,” Perkins said. “He’s a guy that’s going to come in and provide a lot of energy.”
The on-court play in this Thunder-Grizzlies series has provided more than enough drama. But the off-court fashion show has only added to the intrigue.
Durant and, particularly, Westbrook are known for their off-the-wall fashion choices, with the Thunder’s eccentric point guard wearing all-red after Game 1 and all-teal after Game 2.
But Mike Conley has been up to the challenge in this series, rocking a similar red look for Game 1 and a strange-looking top hat after Game 3, which he revealed was made out of wood.
“Yeah, it’s actual wood,” Conley said. “My guy…had to talk me into wearing it. It’s the same stuff that made out my bow-tie, my bow-tie I wore last year, the wooden one.”
“We won with it,” Conley joked. “Might have to wear it again.
STAT OF THE DAY
The Thunder is now 0-5 in Game 3’s when the series is tied 1-1, including 0-3 against Memphis. During those previous four series, the Thunder has only gone on to win once, against Memphis back in 2011.
Serge Ibaka on the physical nature of this series: “The same way they make us work hard, we make them work hard, too. After the game, you finish the game, my body’s sore. They feel the same, too.”