OKC Thunder (5-2, 1-1 road) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (5-3, 3-0 home)
Series: Tied 1-1
View from the enemy: 3 Shades of Blue
I can’t decide who this game is more important for, big picture. The Thunder have to win once in Memphis, so it has to either come today, in Game 4 or in Game 6. But going down 2-1 and relinquishing momentum and confidence back to the Grizzlies would be bad.
Still though, I think the pressure is on the Grizzlies here. To win this series, they really need to protect their home court. They could lose Game 4, but a win today guarantees a 2-2 split coming back to OKC and a Game 6 at the FedEx Forum.
Basically what I’m saying though, is this game is really stinking big, both ways.
The question is: Can the Thunder play like they did in Game 2 again? Can they shoot well again? Will the bench contribute? Will the interior defense dominate? That’s the focus here.
The adjustment Scott Brooks and his coaching staff made for the Grizzlies in Game 2 was almost jarring. The Grizzlies went from dominant inside force to perimeter oriented. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph went from combining for 54 points to compiling just 28 together. Nothing came easy for the duo as Gasol went 3-9 and Randolph 2-13, including 0-5 in the second half.
The Thunder were a dominant team after the Kendrick Perkins trade because of their interior defense. That was missing in Game 1 as the Grizzlies dominated the flow, feel and pace of the game. It’s all about that battle again in Game 3.
With three days off to think, watch film, think, practice and think some more, it’s in the Grizzlies’ hands to figure it out. How does Lionel Hollins adjust to find space for Randolph and Gasol? The high pick-and-roll was snuffed out in Game 2 by the Thunder and OKC’s defenders gave Randolph no space. The obvious adjustment is more minutes for O.J. Mayo as he’s one of the few players that can space the floor. The Grizzlies were last in 3-point attempts and makes this season. The Thunder dared them to take and make them in Game 2. Memphis didn’t respond.
Either the Grizzlies change their game and look for more outside, or they just try and power through the Thunder’s interior adjustment. That’s basically where we’re at right now. These teams have had three days off to think about it all. Lots of time to adjustm adapt and work. Let’s see what they come up with.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were good in Game 2, but not great. Again, the Thunder’s role guys stepped up. This one is going to come down to which duo outperfoms the other I think. Is it Gasol and Randolph or Durant and Westbrook? The Thunder see a big opportunity to ride some momentum and take control of this series here. But the Grizzlies have been terrific at home. Something’s got to give here. And that’s why this is going to be one terrific game.
I think about 15 different things every 20 seconds. One minute, I’m really confident. The next, I’m really not. Winning on the road isn’t easy, but OKC has showed it can do it. The first six minutes will really set a ton. It’s an odd start time and the Thunder are on the road. Energy, effort and focus are the things to watch. If OKC is totally there, I think the Thunder take care of business today. Don’t ask me again in 20 seconds though.