This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Fedex Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Backstory: I guess a lot of people are saying that this matchup is important. The Grizzlies have been on an absolute tear as of late, defeating teams such as Phoenix, San Antonio, Portland, and Utah. In an extremely tough January schedule, they seem to have thrived. Why are they doing this? Well, personally, I think they're doing it just to prove my "The Grizzlies and the Thunder Won't Make the Playoffs" article totally and utterly wrong. But really, they've found a way to win. Zach Randolph has regained his stride, Marc Gasol has turned into his brother, OJ Mayo and rudy Gay continue to score, and all Mike Conley has to do is pass. On top of that, Tinsley is a great backup point guard.
The Thunder, meanwhile, almost lost to the Timberwolves. That's not a good sign, but the Grizzlies are still the Grizzlies. Even after they win a championship, I'd still think the thunder would be able to beat them. Just as I'd believe the Thunder would lose to the Spurs, even if they were a lotto team. It's just ingrained into my thoughts.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Center: Nenad Krstic vs. Marc Gasol
It's really no contest, but I wouldn't expect Gasol to feast. The Thunder have shown the ability to defend the interior well as of late, and I don't think that trend will stop tonight. As long as Brooks is willing to keep two big men out on the floor at once, this matchup shouldn't be a huge problem.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Zach Randolph
Last time, Jeff Green had a pretty mediocre game offensively, but he was really good at pestering Randolph into bad shots and a lower percentage. Still, expect Randolph to have the upper hand in most categories.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay is the type of player that will drive to the basket and earn a lot of his points at the line. Expect these two to just have scoring contests on each other.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Orange Juice Mayonnaise
Last time Sefolosha did an excellent job of forcing OJ Mayo into bad shots and a bad percentage. Expect that to continue here.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Mike Conley
Mike Conley's main job is to just pass the ball, so he shouldn't be much of a scoring threat against Westbrook. Last time, Westbrook had an offensive feast, and I think Conley will put up minimal resistance. He'll have to watch out for Tinsley at times, though.
Battle of the Benches:
The Thunder have a far superior bench in every department but Point Guard, in which the teams are tied.
Coaching and Intangibles:
The Grizzlies are on a tear and at home, so I would watch out.
To me, there are two keys to this game. The first is incredibly simple, and said by announcers all the time. It's defense. There's no way the Thunder are going to out-gun the Grizzlies, who can light up the scoreboard better than my Warriors could have in my entire lifetime. They'll need to make sure Sefolosha shuts down Mayo, and they'll need to have two big men in the post at most times. If that means less Jeff Green, then so be it. It just might be necessary. The second key to the game is exploiting the bench. With the exception of Tinsley, the Grizzly bench is pretty terrible. The Thunder bench can easily outperform them, and the Thunder players will be better rested, so they should fare well against the Grizzly starters, who get little rest. In any case, the better we do against the Grizzly bench players, the less playing time they get, and the more tired the starters will be.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 100, Memphis 99
I may have a Vancouver Grizzlies jacket, but that doesn't give me any mercy for the team from Memphis.
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. I might be by during the game to drop my thoughts as well. Go Thunder!