Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was not able to watch yesterday's Game One against the Grizzlies. Perhaps this was for the best. I have gone on the record though in this space to state that it was the Grizzlies, more than the Mavericks, Nuggets, or Trail Blazers, that scared me the most. That reason was on display yesterday. They play with an attitude of, "this is how we will beat you," and then they just keep coming and coming with that singular focus. All is not lost, for sure, and if you need evidence of this, just ask the Hornets. The less talented Hornets did to the Lakers in Game One the same type of thing the Grizzlies just did - they played above and beyond their normal means and made the Lakers look bad. But LA took the beating to heart, made adjustments, and won four of the next five games. In any event, this test is of the kind that a championship-caliber team MUST pass. If you cannot pass, then you cannot win it all.
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Mayberry's post-game notes. Zach Randolph was not a huge surprise, but apparently Marc Gasol caught them by surprise:
"Him knocking down the 15-footer was surprising to me today" - Kendrick Perkins
Young highlights a comment made by Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins - that the way OKC prepared for the Nuggets was completely different with how they had to prepare to play Memphis.
Hollinger writes that it was not the vaunted defense that did the Thunder in, but a stellar offensive efficiency. Memphis scored 14 points more than they averaged in the regular season and 10 more points than any game the Grizz played against the Spurs. Put simply, the Grizzlies executed in a way that the Nuggets did not in round one, and the Thunder were not ready for it.
The studio guys offer a few comments about what OKC did wrong, and how they can adjust.
The SB Nation guys sound actually somewhat surprised by the way Z-Bo and Gasol were able to play against the Thunder's front line. The big question then becomes, was Game One an outlier?
Mayberry writes how alarming it was to see the Thunder put forth their worst defensive game in almost four months.
Randolph dominated both Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, with adds additional attention to Game Two's key match-ups. It is this type of thing that makes NBA playoff basketball so compelling - the Thunder HAVE to figure out how to adjust, or else this thing is going to be over before it even starts.
Wise points out an interesting connection with the Thunder's superstar and the up and coming Greivis Vasquez.
Grizz coach Lionel Hollins has mostly flown below the radar this season, but it shouldn't be missed as to the quality of his work. He made this good observation:
"We don't care how anybody thinks about us or how they rate us. Being the 8-seed means nothing. I mean, last year, the 8-seed (OKC) won 50 games. It wouldn't have been an upset if they beat a 1-seed. I think you have to just go play."
This is actually a preview to the series, but it was illuminating to me because the breakdown is emblematic of the many predictions that I've read. See how well yesterday's game lines up.
In a way, the Grizzlies have mirrored the Thunder in the way they have rebuilt themselves in the past two years. The franchise has certainly had its ups and downs, but what they have now is certainly strong and sustainable, and most importantly, they now have an identity.