Grizzlies (4-2, 1-2 road) vs. Thunder (4-2, 2-1 home)
Series tied 0-0
View from the enemy: 3 Shades of Blue
(I wrote a full series preview for CBSSports.com, so if you’re looking for one, check that out. And yep, my official pick is Grizzlies in six.)
Remember almost exactly two years ago, the Grizzlies came into The Peake (then the Ford Center) and took on the Thunder in a second round Game 1 at noon and OKC was asleep for the entire first half and lost? That really doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but just kind of weird how things have come back around.
In that series though, obviously Game 1 wasn’t that important. The Thunder bounced back, they won in Memphis and they moved on. This series, it feels like Game 1 means everything. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like winning Game 1 is a necessity. The reason: The Thunder need to prove to themselves that they’re still good. I think they’re not entirely convinced that they can get to the Western Finals, that they can beat Memphis four times without Westbrook. And a loss would only reinforce that.
A win? A win and their mindset would change. They would think they could, and the light at the end of the tunnel would be three more wins over Memphis, and then they’re playing for the right to go back to the Finals. Perspectives change.
They’ve had only about a day to get over beating the Rockets, so not much time to practice and adjust. The Grizzlies are a different beast (har) than the Rockets. The Thunder go from scrambling with small lineups and defending the 3 for almost 40 attempts, to playing a team with two towers and that shoots the fewest 3s in the league. In some ways, it helps OKC because the Thunder can dictate the matchups in the series. They can influence lineups, and they can go man for man against the Grizzlies.
Three Big Things
1. Paint protection. I’m going to keep putting this stat everywhere. Per NBA Stats, Zach Randolph in three games this season against the Thunder (71 minutes) with Nick Collison on the bench: 28 points, 37.5 percent shooting, and a plus-23. With Collison on the floor (44 minutes), Randolph scored 16 points on just 27.3 percent shooting (6 of 22) and was a minus-32. The lesson: Lots of Collison, please.
2. Turnovers. The Grizzlies feast on turnovers. They’re extremely handsy, and they bump and push ballhandlers. The Thunder have had problems with keeping the ball in the past against Memphis and with OKC’s offense an issue, giving away possessions would be disastrous.
3. Keggie Martson. Can Reggie Jackson keep it going? I think so. What about with Tony Allen on him though? This will be something like Jackson has never experience. Kevin Martin has historically torched Allen, and the Grizzlies, but he’s now in uncharted territory. We saw how big he was in Game 6. That’s how he has to play from here on out. He has to be OKC’s aggressive second scorer. If Jackson and Martin can produce 35-40 points together, the Thunder have a chance.
Tip at 12:00 CT. Go Second Round.