|2012-2013 NBA PLAYOFFS Round 2!!!!|
|May 7th, 2013|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|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 (Thunder Lead Series 1-0)|
|Regular Season Series: Nov. 14, Jan. 31, March 20 (Grizzlies won series, 2-1)|
|Injury Report: Russell Westbrook (Out)|
|Mike Conley||PG||Reggie Jackson|
|Tony Allen||SG||Thabo Sefolosha|
|Tayshaun Prince||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Zach Randolph||PF||Serge Ibaka|
How good do you feel after Game 1? Well, that's the 64,000 dollar question. There was definitely a lot of good and a lot of bad that you could take from that game. But I think there's one thing that everybody took from that game. The Thunder can still compete. They may not be the intimidating or dominant force that they once were, but they can beat any team in the league.
That fact is relaxing, and guarantees that this series will be at least something to write home about. But I'm still feeling incredibly uneasy about Game 2 tonight. Game 1 was a great demonstration of toughness, but the performance hinged on two things: Excellent shooting and great interior defense that kept the bigs off the scoreboard and off the free throw line. Both of those things just aren't certain in my mind.
For one, the Thunder's excellent shooting largely hinged on the play of Kevin Martin. He's a great asset to have, and he can really turn the tide of a game if he's given the chance. But if watching him all year has taught me something, it's that you can't rely on Kevin Martin. Sure, Russell Westbrook had his ups and downs, but he was able to buoy his scoring with free throws and added to other ends of the floor. Kevin Martin, on the other hand, will have downright terrible games, and doesn't do anything but score. So if he's gone, we're toast.
Moreover, it's going to be hard to get Serge Ibaka going in this series. His shooting has kinda been off for the entire playoffs, but the Grizzlies are really excellent about protecting the paint, eliminating his cut-to-the-basket game. Now, he's basically limited to jumpers, and with the Thunder showing no threat of penetrating, it's not looking like he's going to get good opportunities any time soon. That is, unless Reggie Jackson starts driving and dishing.
Otherwise, it's hard to say we can rely on the Thunder's interior defense. As long as the Grizzlies use their old school back to the basket sets, then the Thunder should be okay. But if, for some reason, Marc Gasol evolves into a pick and roll player, then the Thunder could be screwed. (Note: Gasol sets picks, but he rarely rolls.) Perk really likes to hedge the player who's driving, and his low speed can really kill the Thunder on D when he's stuck with that matchup.
Regardless, the one thing the Thunder will be able to count on tonight is Kevin Durant. He faded a bit during the third quarter, but that was mostly due to fatigue. I really think that he could do a lot better if Brooks gave him a rest during the second half, but even without rest, he finished the game at 50% shooting. The Grizz really don't have a defensive answer for Durant right now, and he'll at least ensure that the Thunder stay close.
The one thing I think the Thunder could really improve on is their pace and ball movement. The Thunder made some attempts to push the pace early, but kind of gave up on that as the game went on. I think, as a result, they made less passes overall, and it really hurt the offense at times. It's one thing to rely on your offense, but when the other team can kill you with reliable opportunities in the post, you're going to need to get some open shots in the perimeter. Again, I think the responsibility lies on Jackson, who needs to make more of an effort to be an assist man.
Anyway, tonight's game should be another example of Big Blue vs. Grit n' Grind. I love watching these two teams play, no matter who the victor is. The Grizzlies probably hold the advantage right now, but that's probably just because I don't trust Kevin Martin to shoot that well again. But, heck, I could be wrong.
Prediction: Memphis Grizzlies 99, Oklahoma City Thunder 95.
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