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Thunderland is not so free and easy right now

Beating the Grizzlies anywhere is becoming increasingly difficult, and beating them in FedEx Forum is becoming Herculean. Memphis has won 15 straight at home, and over three playoff series since 2011, the Thunder is 1-5 in the Grindhouse, needing three overtimes to get that one victory.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 25, 2014

Now the Thunder has to pick itself off the mat and fight off discouragement against a Memphis team that shows no signs of letting the Thunder return to its free-and-easy style.

“We’ve been in it before, so we know how to handle it,” Durant said. “We’ve been down 2-0, we’ve been down 2-1. We’ve been in that position before, so I think that experience is going to help us out.”

Maybe. But Durant, just like against Memphis a year ago, is getting less and less productive the deeper the series goes. And Westbrook is no better. Durant is 22-of-55 shooting the last two games; Westbrook is 20-of-54. That’s not likely to change much. Memphis won’t allow it.

And in practice Friday, Westbrook has to apologize for his brother’s goofiness, or go stone cold silent about it. Not a pleasant day in Thunderland. If Foreman Scotty can coach his team to victory through this minefield, he’ll have forever earned his stripes.

Of course, his best attribute as a coach is these guys play for him. They never quit. Not down 17 in the fourth quarter. Not down four in the final 30 seconds. Not even down four with 1.7 seconds left. Westbrook somehow got himself fouled with 0.9 seconds left, shooting a halfcourt shot, just to give the Thunder a sliver of a chance at victory.

But playing hard and playing well are two different things. The Grizzlies can’t keep the Thunder from the former, but they can and have kept the Thunder from the latter. And now the Thunder season reaches a critical point, and there’s trouble in paradise. Not just from Ray Westbrook, but from a team that has to wonder if it can scale Mount Memphis.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.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.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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