But the second half was different.
“That’s definitely what we have to hold onto,” Joerger said. “We need 48 minutes of that. We stood up and took a stand, where there was times in the first half we weren’t making contact with people until they were past the foul line.
“What we talked about at halftime, we’ve gotta make them play. They’re just running around free and loose. That’s a big deal for us. We’ve got to guard. No doubt about it.”
Brooks gave a quick theory on what he wants from his team. Solid play at all times, with occasional runs of dominance. “Nothing below solid,” Foreman Scotty said.
The Thunder was several time zones south of solid in that third quarter. Defensive intensity gone. Offensive execution missing. Bad shots on the Thunder end, easy shots on the Memphis end. Hard to believe these were the same two teams.
“We were embarrassed in the first half, quite frankly,” Conley said. “But at the end of the game, we say, ‘hey, we played a good 2 1/2 quarters of basketball.’”
Of course, Memphis comes away from this game with more than just encouragement. It knows Kevin Durant awaits game after game. The Grizzlies and Tony Allen did a bang-up job of slowing Durant last spring in Westbrook’s absence, but even with Westbrook on the bench for much of the fourth quarter, Memphis failed to slow Durant. He had 13 points in the fourth quarter, on 5-of-6 shooting.
Like he’s done time after time over the last six years, Durant lifted the Thunder from disaster to victory.
Shame it was needed.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.