When we last visited upon Straight Outta Vancouver, SB Nation's great Memphis Grizzlies blog, the writer there reflected on the surprising Grizzlies season and was looking ahead to the Spurs in the first round. Well, as we saw on Friday, the Thunder's nemesis is back and with more confidence than ever. We wanted to check back in with them to get some further insight on the second round match-up between the Thunder and Grizzlies. Perhaps we can even come up with some sort of nickname for this series, like the "Grit-Grind-Payback" Stakes. Hmmm...needs work.
You can find the previous Q&A with them here:
A Thunder Fan's Questions for Straight Outta Vancouver
1. What did the 1st round reveal to you about the quality of the Grizzlies?
I think what we saw in the first round series was the Grizzlies' ability to close-out important games. Sure, you can say they faltered in Game 5, allowing Gary Neal to hit the now infamous game-tying three, but in Games 1, 3 and 6, the Grizzlies fought off a team that has a history of closing out big games. This is going to be key in the 2nd round series against the Thunder, with Kevin Durant no less scarier than Manu Ginobili with the game on the line. But going back and watching a young Grizzlies team, who coming into this series had not been tested in a playoff atmosphere, we learned that they have the ability to close, not fold, under pressure.
2. The Grizzlies won the regular season against the Thunder, 3-1. Given that it was before the Thunder traded for Kendrick Perkins, how much stock do you put in that success? How do you think the Grizzlies can replicate that, but this time win four games, including one in OKC?
There's some stock to be put in the regular season, but it is true that we haven't seen a "complete" Thunder squad with Kendrick Perkins in the middle. It'll be a tougher task for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to dominate the post against the Thunder, with not only Perkins but also Serge Ibaka roaming, but the difference maker is going to be offensive efficiency for the Thunder. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will get their 60-plus points, but what gave the Grizz the nod in the regular season series was that Westbrook and Durant combined for 6.8 turnovers per game. Our strength is in forcing turnovers, but what scares me, though, is that both shot above their season FG% against the Grizz. Memphis needs to force shots on defense, not even from Durant, who will have his hands full with Tony Allen tailing him, but from Westbrook. If he's going to abuse Conley and get 25-plus points, they need to make sure he doesn't do it while shooting 47% from the floor as he did in the regular season. To come full circle, yes, I'm worried about Perkins being back in the mix, but my main concern is making Westbrook and Durant work on offense even if it does mean they'll get their 60 points combined. In order to get that one game in OKC, Memphis has to make sure Westbrook comes out of a game having shot 41% from the floor and coughing up 5 turnovers.
3. What do you see as the biggest obstacle to winning four games in the second round? What is your biggest advantage?
To be honest, the biggest obstacle, besides limiting Westbrook's efficiency, is winning a road game. Makes simple sense, but we know we're among the top teams playing on our own turf. On the flip, so too are the Thunder. Both teams finished the regular season 30-11 at home. The difference, however, is that OKC won 25 road games while Memphis only won 16. It's all about getting that one road game. I don't want to take anything away from our great series victory over the Spurs, but it took a road game against San Antonio without Manu Ginobili for Memphis to advance. Finding that strength to win on the road is our biggest concern.
Our advantage is naturally in our post play. Not only on offense, but also on defense. Winning the glass on both sides of the court will go a long way to limiting easy put-backs and getting extra shot attempts for Durant. Also, forcing turnovers and disrupting the passing lanes. To put it simply, win the glass and the battle for turnovers. If we do that, we play our game.
Much thanks to Straight Outta Vancouver. Be sure to follow their blog to get the Grizzlies perspective on what should be a very intense second round of the playoffs.