Knotted at a game apiece, the Thunder and Grizzlies head into Saturday evening's Game 3 looking to tip the scales in their own favor. Since we've got such a leisurely amount of time in between games 2 & 3, WTLC thought it well to check in with Kevin Lipe, the managing editor of the great site, Grizzly Bear Blues (nee, Straight Outta Vancouver). Check out Kevin's perspective on how the series has gone and what it means to live in the "Tony Allen Experience" (not to be confused with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but both can be pretty trippy).
To read my answers to Kevin's questions, you can find them HERE.
WTLC: What was your impression of the first two games of the series? Do you think that home court is going to play a factor or do you think it will keep going back and forth?
Kevin Lipe: I think the crowds at the Grindhouse are out for blood against the Thunder. There will be a high percentage of us in the building Saturday for Game 3 that were present for the 3OT game in 2011, and for Game 6 in 2011, and who remember what that felt like and want to send the Thunder home for the summer in memory of that 2011 squad.
Unlike other Griz fans apparently think, the Thunder have great fans and a great atmosphere in their arena (although I wonder if the t-shirts are really necessary at this point... the Griz stopped doing t-shirts this year in favor of just giving out the yellow Growl Towels) (and, to talk a little arena-giveaway trash, if you're going to do t-shirts, maybe pick something better than "Community" to go on them).
The FedExForum in Memphis is the loudest arena I've ever heard in my life. Game 6 against the Clippers was absolutely deafening, and the atmosphere was more like a wrestling match than like a basketball game. The crowd was chanting the chorus of "Whoop That Trick" from the movie Hustle & Flow. Ejections left and right. Zach Randolph getting ejected, tossing his headband into the crowd, Tony Allen popping his jersey, and then Z-Bo literally skipping into the tunnel.
The Grizzlies/Clippers rivalry is one where there is very little love lost between the two teams and their respective fan bases. I don't think the vibe is going to be as dark and mean against the Thunder - there's a lot more respect for the Thunder as competitors and as a really great basketball team. But it's going to be loud. Really loud. I think home court advantage is a real thing, for the Grizzlies and for the Thunder both. The Grizzlies only had to win one game in OKC to swing home court advantage back in their favor, and now they've set themselves up to defend home court. I think that tips the scales in the Grizzlies' favor for the series, even if just a little bit.
WTLC: What adjustments did you see the Grizzlies make in order to completely reverse the outcome of the 4th quarters of games 1 and 2?
KL: Fourth quarter, game 1, Tony Allen: 1 minute, 24 seconds, 0 points. Mike Conley: 1-4 for 2 points. Fourth quarter, game 2, Tony Allen: 10 minutes, 25 seconds, 8 points, 3 rebounds, 4 steals. Mike Conley: 5-6 for 13 points.
Tony Allen cannot sit the whole fourth quarter if the Grizzlies are going to win this series. If the game is close, Kevin Durant is going to grab it for the Thunder every single time unless you make his life difficult. Tony Allen makes his life difficult. Mike Conley stepped up in a big way and became the go-to guy for a bucket when the post scoring wasn't happening. Those are the two things that put the Grizzlies over the top in Game 2.
The Grizzlies' backcourt rarely blows up and takes control of a game, but that's exactly what happened in Game 2, and it couldn't have happened at a better time.
WTLC: Tony Allen. Discuss.
I don't even know what to say about Tony Allen anymore. He's reached some level of play beyond "fantastic" that I don't have language for.
I went from calling him the Grizzlies' chaotic neutral (that's a D&D reference) to calling him the Grindfather to calling him the Lord Of Basketball Chaos. It seems like the more disrupted, disjointed, and weird the game gets, the more Tony Allen thrives. He has no patience for elegance in the game. It is inimical to what he's trying to do on the court: break things. Also cheer for bench players when they do crazy things.
Tony Allen is a wrecking ball pounding through the front of your house while you're arranging your furniture. And that's the way he likes it.
Many thanks to Kevin, and stay tuned as we get ready for Game 3 as we hope to have much more coverage and collaborative effort.