Grizzlies (0-1, 0-1 road) vs. Thunder (1-0, 1-0 home)
Thunder lead 1-0
After 24 minutes, it looked as if the Thunder were going to bulldoze their way through the overwhelmed Grizzlies and make an opening Game 1 statement that was loud and clear.
But a 31-13 third quarter not just got the Grizzlies back in the game, but back in the series as well. In that first half, scoring was a chore for Memphis, almost as if making the ball go in the basket was something of a miracle. Their offense was a wreck as the Thunder swarmed and attacked them. A little halftime adjusting and the Grizzlies were able to impose their will, get back to basics of their ground-and-pound offense, and do their thing. Points started coming easy and as they returned the favor with rabid defense in the halfcourt on the other end, the game tightened.
There was a calculated risk in the comeback, though. Dave Joerger played his starters the entire third quarter, and even started the fourth with them. Eventually, the team just ran out of gas as Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant kept coming. The Thunder took Game 1 by 14 points, but at least it was obvious — this won’t be as easy as it might’ve seemed.
Five Big Things
1. Turnovers. The Grizzlies gave it away just six times. That’s the name of their game, but the Thunder would prefer to create a few more to find some easy transition opportunities. It’s mission critical for the Thunder to take care of the ball, too, which they did in Game 1 (13 giveaways).
2. 3-point line. The Grizzlies only got 11 attempts in Game 1, and made just two, one being on a buzzer-beater to end the first half. Mike Miller, only 1-6 shooting, including 1-2 from 3. The Grizzlies prefer to play inside-out, but keeping them from open looks on the perimeter means they become very one dimensional and predictable. A player to keep a close eye on tonight: Courtney Lee. He’s one of the few that can create his own when nothing seems available, and can knock down perimeter shots in a hurry.
3. Bench work. The Grizzlies’ bench is comically bad right now, particularly after the loss of Nick Calathes. They’re likely to play their starters 40 minutes again, so the Thunder’s second unit needs to take advantage of those times when it’s James Johnson, Beno Udrih and Ed Davis running the show.
4. You’re killing them, smallball. Scott Brooks timed his smallball execution beautifully in Game 1, dictating the matchups in the first half and keeping the Grizzlies from having any matchup advantage. Durant can defend Gasol decently, so going to that look early, and trusting it even with the lead in hand, is big.
5. Throw the first haymaker again. The Grizzlies made a nice comeback in Game 1, but playing from ahead against them is important. They’re not typically a team that can make up big deficits in a hurry, and setting an immediate tone from tipoff is big. After the way Game 1 started, you can be sure Memphis is going to try and play with some serious force from the jump. The Thunder need to absorb that, and do their down pushing back.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Game 2.