Thunder vs. Grizzlies: Finally, A Proper Playoff Rematch is at Hand (2011-2013 Game 53 Preview)

GameThread at 7, be there!

Records: Memphis Grizzlies (28-22) at Oklahoma City Thunder (40-12)

Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena Seasoned by Zatarain's, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, SportsSouth

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), 92.9 ESPN Memphis

Enemy Blog(s): Straight Outta Vancouver, 3 Shades of Blue

Previous Meeting(s): Dec. 28, Jan. 10, Feb. 3 (Thunder lead series 3-0)

The Thunder lead the season series against the Grizzlies at 3-0, but don't even look at that. It's irrelevant. Two games against the Grizzlies were against Zach Randolphless teams. And Zach Randolph brings some serious problems to the table.

For one, he's consistently successful against the Perkins and Ibaka combo, which is a rarity unless your name is Dirk Nowitzki. Perk is good at keeping his matchup away from the basket, but Randolph has the ability to score from a further distance than most big men. Ibaka can jump high and block shots, but Zach Randolph is an expert at using his body in order to create space. Secondly, he's got a great post partner in Marc Gasol who can take the pressure off of him. I know, Randolph isn't back in the starting lineup yet, but it would be silly to think he's going to get less than 25 minutes tonight. And he's still a major offensive option.

All Zach Randolphness aside, another concern tonight will be Russell Westbrook. He performed well against the Grizzlies when they were reeling following the Randolph injury in January, but he's had some serious offensive problems otherwise, shooting 33% against them in February and making no field goals against them in December. The Grizzlies smartly put their bigger guards on him, not allowing him to bully his way into the lane. This makes him rely on his mid-range jumper a bit more. He's been hot lately, but if his shot goes cold, his entire offensive game will be shut down, aside from the occasional trip to the line.

Aside from that, the usual suspects will be playing roles tonight. Tony Allen will be waiting in the wings to exploit our poor help defense. Kevin Durant will continue to be the incredible scorer that he is. Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo will be chipping in. Ibaka will massively struggle against bigs who won't leave him alone in the lane. And Thabo Sefolosha might actually have a good offensive performance. (He's averaging 10 points against them this year!)

Anyway, expect a hell of a defensive game tonight from both sides. The Grizzlies are fighting for playoff seeding, so I'd expect them to put up a hell of a fight. I know, the Grizzlies are coming off of a horrible couple of weeks and are probably tanking so that they can face the Spurs again in the first round. But given the history of these two teams and how the Grizzlies have lost 4 straight against the Thunder, you've got to think there will be a little bit of oomph in their fight tonight.

Prediction: Memphis Grizzlies 95, Oklahoma City Thunder 92

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