|2012-2013 NBA PLAYOFFS Round 2!!!!|
|May 13th, 2013|
|The FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee|
|8:30 PM Central Daylight Time|
|Turner Network Television|
|WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), 92.9 FM ESPN|
|3 Shades of Blue|
|Playoffs: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3 (Grizzlies Lead Series 2-1)|
|Regular Season Series: Nov. 14, Jan. 31, March 20 (Grizzlies won series, 2-1)|
|Injury Report: Russell Westbrook (Out)|
|Reggie Jackson||PG||Mike Conley|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||Tony Allen|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Tayshaun Prince|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Zach Randolph|
36% from the floor.
That's what the Thunder shot Saturday Night, and it's not a number I'd care to re-visit. But alas, we must. For most of the Thunder shot like absolute garbage on that night, despite all of the pieces being in place. I've focused on how badly the Thunder have shot before, and it's generally what people will linger on when they look at the game.
But, what's more remarkable to me is how the Thunder were dominant in areas other than scoring. They managed to win both rebounding categories handily, displaying all of the hustle befitting a championship team. Randolph and Gasol were kept away from the rim and off the offensive boards. Moreover, the Thunder effectively pressured them, without leaving the Grizzlies wide open on the perimeter.
How did they do it? Well, the biggest thing they managed to do was take advantage when either Gasol or Randolph was resting. The Grizzlies become a totally different team when they sub out one of their two main bigs, even when Arthur or Davis is subbed in. The Grizz simply don't have the same amount of scoring power or ball movement ability, so their offense generally suffers. The Thunder took advantage by running the floor and pushing for steals.
The Thunder also decided to go totally small against the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter, letting Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison ride the pine. Perkins was effective early on in the series, but he's seen his usefulness drop as Marc Gasol hits more and more jumpshots. Collison has been snubbed for the entire length of the playoffs, but he did finally get some run with Ibaka during the second quarter. Regardless, the Thunder were finally able to kickstart their offense in the fourth, with Martin, Fisher, Ibaka, and Jackson all putting in efficient stints.
What killed the game? KD's fatigue in the fourth. He barely sat at the end of the first, and played the length of the game after that. We've seen him struggle during the fourth quarter after not sitting before, so it's no surprise that he choked when it mattered the most. Obviously, the solution here is simple. REST KD, FOR PETE'S SAKE!
Still, you can't pin the loss totally on KD, nor can you pin it on Scott Brooks. As I said at the beginning of this preview, the main culprit is simply execution. The Thunder need to hit their shots. There's not a single rotation player, aside from Liggins, who didn't miss a makeable shot last night. I'm not talking about tough shots that just didn't go in, I'm talking wide-open jumpers and shots near the rim. The Thunder just weren't on point.
On the Grizzlies end of things, not a lot was shaken up. They went back to Keyon Dooling as their ninth man, and he did a decent job. Aside from Gasol or Randolph, they don't really seem to have a player who consistently gets a set amount of shots. Conley won't force it up when he's not hot, and everyone else shoots depending on their situation. Tony Allen often found himself guarded by a smaller guy, so he was looked to as an offensive option. He didn't blow the doors off, but his contribution might have been enough to push the Grizzlies over the top.
The missing link for the Grizzlies this series has been Jarryd Bayless. After a reasonably good Game 1 and a good regular season against the Thunder specifically, he's hit the tank in Game 2 and 3. The Thunder have done a better job of guarding off-ball scorers than they have in the past, but when he inevitably breaks through and gives the Grizzlies a good performance, they're going to be hard to stop. Then again, you could say the exact same thing about Kevin Martin.
Anyway, tonight's pretty much a must win for the Thunder. They're down 2-1, and a 3-1 deficit is incredibly hard to overcome, especially with the final three games switching locations constantly. I'm not willing to call the series if they lose, because this is a resilient team. But if there's any time to step up, it's now. They've got the tools, they've got the experience. I'm predicting that the Thunder hit their shots and win tonight, but anything can happen between these two teams.
GO THUNDER! CAN'T STOP THE FUNK!
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 101, Memphis Grizzlies 98.