Gamethread at 7. Be there!
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Fedex Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, SportSouth
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), Soul Classics 103.5 FM WRBO
So far, there has been little rest for the Thunder. They had a Christmas Day home opener against the Magic, and then they went up north to face the new-look Timberwolves. After only a day of rest, the Thunder now have to come face-to-face with their Western Conference Semi-Finals opponent from last year, the Memphis Grizzlies.
How much have the Grizzlies changed since last year? Well, their most significant addition is Rudy Gay, who was injured during the entirety of the 2011 playoff run. If you thought Tony Allen was a problem during that playoff series, just watch what a real scorer can do. If Gay gets the same thee point opportunities that Allen got plus a few isolations, you can already chalk him up for 20 points.
The Grizz pretty much made all of the sensible Free Agency moves, re-signing Marc Gasol and letting go of guys like Hamed Haddadi and Ishmael Smith. Their most significant loss is that of Shane Battier, a significant defensive and three point force off of the bench. Quincy Pondexter of the Hornets has replaced Greivis Vasquez as a bench scorer, and they gained Dante Cunningham, Jeremy Pargo, and Brian Skinner.
Below: How the Game Will Go, Prediction!
Oddly enough, the Grizzlies are coming off of a loss to the team they upset in the first round, the San Antonio Spurs. There's an extensive post up over at NBAPlaybook documenting the Grizzlies' woes. The post focuses on a fourth quarter stretch during which the Grizzlies found success. The focus of the argument is quoted below:
All in all, that fourth quarter stretch produced eight points in six possessions (1.3 average). Doesn’t seem like much until you factor in that if the Grizzlies averaged that for their (roughly) 97 possessions last night, they would have hung 126 points on San Antonio. Obviously, that is a ridiculously small sample size, but there’s no denying the Memphis playing small with Rudy Gay at the four has some serious upside. If the Grizzlies can add a potent offensive attack to their turnover-producing defense, they could find themselves in the top half of the Western Conference very quickly.
During their playoff series with the Thunder, the Grizzlies heavily relied on Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. They proved unstoppable against the Thunder's interior defense, which is mainly geared towards singularly dominant big men with no post partner, like Dwight Howard or Luis Scola. But against a team like the Spurs which values interior defense on all levels, they had to look to their other scorers. They found some success penetrating the lane while playing small, but ultimately they don't have the types of players or the firepower needed in order to successfully execute that offense on a consistent basis.
Thus, I'm predicting a high-scoring game tonight. The Grizzlies will still find success with Randolph and Gasol outside, while Rudy Gay takes on the Tony Allen role. The Thunder will have more trouble going to Perkins or Ibaka inside, and will instead have to rely on Harden, Sefolosha, and Maynor for secondary scoring. I don't think it will be enough against the Grizzlies offensive attack, and they'll have the crowd on their side for the Home Opener.
Prediction: Memphis 106, Oklahoma City 104