|2013-2014 NBA Pre-Season|
Memphis Grizzlies (0-1)
Oklahoma City Thunder (1-0)
|April 21, 2014|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, OKC, Oklahoma|
|WWLS 98.1FM OKC, 1070 The Fan|
|Enemy Blogs: Grizzly Bear Blues|
|Previous Meetings: Game 1 (Thunder won, 100-86)|
|Injury Report: Nick Calathes (Out), Mike Conley (Day-to-Day); OKC: none|
|Mike Conley||P||Russell Westbrook|
|Courtney Lee||SG||Thabo Sefolosha|
|Tayshaun Prince||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Zach Randolph||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Marc Gasol||C||Kendrick Perkins|
The Oklahoma City Thunder take on the Memphis Grizzlies tonight in game 2 where the Thunder will look to take a 2-0 lead in the best of 7, first round series.
The Thunder maximized their athleticism on both ends of the court in game 1 and Thunder fans got to see the full gamut of what they can do when they're playing right. It is exciting to behold how quickly they can turn defensive stops into offensive opportunity, even against the best defenses. We long to see them play to their potential, and for 24 minutes, we saw it. It brings great hope for the rest of these playoffs.
Game 1 was a story of 3 parts. In the first part, OKC fueled their attack with a defense that did a dominant job in shutting down the Memphis inside-outside attack and led to a huge halftime lead. The second part consisted of the Thunder failing to do anything they did well in part 1, and an offensively challenged Memphis team nearly made a full comeback in a single quarter of play. In the 3rd act, the Thunder regained their footing just in time as the Grizzlies ran out of gas and Durant put them away.
What do we take from this game 1?
1) In a series billed as "Thunder offense vs Grizzlies defense," the real key to it all is neither. Rather, it is the THUNDER defense that the series will turn on. OKC has the ability to shut down the Grizzlies' limited attack if they utilize their big men properly, stay out of foul trouble, and don't get lazy on shooters like Conley and Mike Miller. If their defense fails to do this, then the game WILL turn into Thunder offense vs Grizzlies defense, and in that scenario the odds are much closer.
2) The Thunder don't have to play as well as they did in the 1st half to win. However, they do probably have to play as well as they did in the 4th quarter, when they once again limited Memphis' ability to get open 3-point shots. Mike Miller in particular was a dangerous threat, and OKC did not forget about him. They closed on him as aggressively as I have seen them defend any shooter this season, and he did not get a single clean look all night. If the Thunder can remain at that level of focus, their offense takes care of itself.
3) The Thunder also can't play as bad as they did in the 3rd if they want to win. I really don't need to elaborate any further.
The odds are not likely that the Thunder will have a repeat performance of that 1st half, so really what they need to do is avoid that 3rd quarter if they want to stay on top of this team. Furthermore, they have to recognize that they have a bench advantage that Memphis cannot counter. Anthony Slater rightly noted that Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger may have tipped his hand too soon by burning his starters for too long a stretch in the 2nd half. The Thunder bench has much more firepower than Memphis can match, and I look down at that bench and I see a couple guys in Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones that have no equal on the opposite bench.
On what will the game turn tonight? Expect a better shooting performance from Gasol/Randolph, but I also look to the Thunder avoiding the type of 3rd quarter that almost undid everything.
Prediction: Thunder 95, Grizzlies 85