Gamethread at 4. Be there!
Time: 4:00 PM Central Daylight Time
Place: The Fedex Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
TV: Entertainment Sports Programming Network
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), Soul Classics 103.5 FM WRBO
The Thunder have two games remaining at home, and the Grizzlies have three. Until the Thunder win one in Memphis, the Grizzlies effectively hold home-court advantage.
But, in all honesty, that probably won't matter a great deal. Once you get to this point in the playoffs, arenas lessen in importance and the true talent of the teams shines through. What really matters is the depth our team has. Last Tuesday, we saw how the Thunder's bench could not only hold down the fort, but actually push the lead. While facing a combination of Grizzlies starters and backups in the early fourth quarter, the bench pushed the Thunder's lead to 21. The starters, in fact, were the ones who nearly lost the lead at the end of the game. But, that's not to take away anything from the starters, either. They established a solid presence early in the first quarter that gave the Thunder a ten point advantage most of the way.
All in all, last game was awe-inspiring, the type of game that can push a team from the brink of extinction to an epic series win. It was sparked by a players-only meeting held by Durant and inspired by Perkins, where all of the players had delicious food and watched their terrible Game 1 loss against the Grizzlies. It's the type of meeting that nobody will end up seeing, but, should the Thunder go on to win the series, everyone will be talking about.
Though I doubt there will be a similar meeting prior to tonight's game, I have no doubt that both teams will be ready to play. The Grizzlies know what they need to do in order to win. Find ways for their bigs to score, give their bigs favorable rebound positioning in the post by using smaller players to create space, and lure the Thunder into trapping on the perimeter, so they can get open shots. The Thunder also know what they need to do. Get ball movement going, because Mike Conley will exploit Westbrook. Keep the bigs fresh, smart, and defensively focused, because the Grizzlies have some of the smartest bigs in the league. Lastly, look for easy steals, because the Grizzlies only have one ballhandler.
Who's going to win this game is anybodies guess, but my money's on the Thunder. We've already seen them bounce back well from bad losses, but we also know that they are good at keeping a good thing going. The Grizzlies haven't shown that same resolve, losing only close games against San Antonio and never going on a huge win streak during the regular season. I still think the series will be tied when we head out of Memphis, but tonight, the Thunder will continue riding their wave of momentum. Also, Serge Ibaka WILL PLAY tonight, so there's no concerns from that end. I thank the NBA for the three day break.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 112, Memphis Grizzlies 108