MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Give Scotty Brooks credit. He's not playing it by the book.
Hasheem Thabeet plays 12 minutes one game, DeAndre Liggins eight the next. Kendrick Perkins plays 34 minutes in Game 1, half that in Game 3.
Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha combined for fewer minutes than Reggie Jackson all by his lonesome in Game 3.
And Kevin Durant spent almost seven minutes of court time with his primary defensive assignment guarding 7-foot-1 Marc Gasol.
Strange series. Strange times in Thunderland.
And OKC-Memphis Game 4 arrives Monday night with the naked truth that without victory, the Thunder season stands on cliff's edge, with little chance of survival; 4.1 percent chance to be exact. Only eight of 194 teams down 3-1 in a seven-game series have advanced.
The Grizzlies' oppressive defense is to blame. That and Russell Westbrook's absence. The Thunder can't do anything about the latter and has done little about the former.
The NBA's second-best offense during the regular season — 110.2 points per 100 possessions — has been bad and getting worse against the Griz: a 93-91 victory, a 99-93 defeat and an 87-81 defeat.
That 110.2 points per 100 possessions means 1.1 points per possession. The Thunder has averaged 1.01, 1.03 and 0.86 against Memphis. Maybe it's time Foreman Scotty pulled out all the stops.
Two words. Rucker Park.
Maybe it's time the Thunder quit trying to find some help for Durant. Maybe it's time Durant pulled himself out of the running for Sportsman of the Year. Maybe it's time Durant went all Rucker Park.
Back in August 2011, during the NBA lockout, Durant played on the legendary Harlem outdoor court and scored 66 points with a shooting display that went viral on the Internet.
They don't play Memphis defense at Rucker Park. But Durant was in no mood to pass that night across the street from the old Polo Grounds, and that's the attitude the Thunder might need to beat the Grizzlies.
“I never complain about Kevin shooting,” Brooks said. “The only time I complain is when he passes up a good shot to give his teammate a good shot.”
Brooks knows that's not an even trade.
Now Tony Allen and the Grizzlies have conspired to limit Durant's launches. Thunder scoring is falling, in conjunction with Durant opportunities. Durant used 34 Thunder possessions in Game 1 (shots, foul shots, turnovers), 32 in Game 2 and 26 in Game 3. Reverse that trend and reverse it immediately.
Back when the world was young — you know, when Westbrook was healthy — the Thunder excelled when Durant and Westbrook didn't dominate the shots or the points.
With every Serge Ibaka missed dunk and Kevin Martin clanger, that theory is kaput.
The Thunder had a strange Game 3. The offense clearly was better when Brooks went with a small lineup and gambled that his defense would hold up. But Durant scored much more easily with the big lineup.
“It's not a lineup, it's not who's on the court,” Durant said. “I missed shots. No excuses. I gotta do a better job.”
Durant fancies himself a facilitator, and maybe he is. But his passes are for naught if Memphis allows few open shots and the Thunder misses when it gets one.
Right now, Durant taking a tough shot is a better bet than most of his teammates taking an open shot. That's counter-intuitive, but that's life in the playoffs.
Don't look now, but all kinds of teams are having trouble scoring. The Spurs managed 87 points Sunday in an overtime game against the defense-challenged Warriors. The Knickerbockers topped out at 71 points on Saturday.
Get a basket any way you can. Get to 88 or 93 any way you can.
And the Thunder's best hope, at least now, at least against Memphis, is for Kevin Durant to go all Rucker Park.
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 FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.