Thunder (1-1, 0-0 road) vs. Grizzlies (1-1, 0-0 home)
Kevin Durant hit a four-point shot. Kendrick Perkins had a buzzer-beater. And yet still, the Grizzlies came out of Oklahoma City with a 1-1 split, taking over home court advantage and control of the series. That’s not good.
The Thunder were in the same spot a season ago against Memphis, having won Game 1 only to lose a difficult Game 2, knowing they needed to take either 3 or 4 at the Grind House. Instead, two difficult losses later and the Thunder were basically put down. But this is supposed to be different with having Russell Westbrook. So we’ll see. The Thunder are the favorites for Game 3, but FedEx Forum has been a house of horror for them the last few seasons.
This game feels must-win-ish, but really, it’s only about winning Game 3 or 4 and making sure things are even when things return to OKC for the all-important Game 5. Obviously winning tonight changes the series and tilts things severely back into the Thunder’s favor.
And with how Game 2 went, with the Thunder play generally awful and yet having a chance, they have to feel moderately good about this. Then again, there’s a reason the Thunder didn’t play well and it has quite a bit to do with the Grizzlies. And things only get more difficult in Memphis.
Series tied 1-1
Five Big Things
1. Free KD. Meaning, free him of Tony Allen. There are multiple ways to go about it, but the adjustment I expect: Involve Zach Randolph in the pick-and-roll. That often means running it with Kendrick Perkins, which means playing him, but he is the Thunder’s best screener and can pick off Allen better than anyone. And if Perkins gets a good screen on Allen, it will allow Durant to attack Randolph, whether on a pull-up or off the dribble.
2. Pick-and-roll coverages. Scott Brooks seemed to suggest the Thunder would adjust how they defend Mike Conley and the Grizzlies’ pick-and-roll game. Will they start going under screens rather than trailing the ball?
3. Lineup searching. One of my favorite criticisms from Game 2 was Thunder fans reciting the same talking points when it comes to Brooks, saying he’s “stubborn” with his lineups. But if you were paying attention, Brooks actually was extremely flexible without his rotation, basically benching Reggie Jackson in the second half. So how does he approach tonight?
4. Bench. Jackson was awful in Game 2. Beno Udrih matched the entire OKC bench’s output. It’s an area the Thunder have to win.
5. Westbrook. Under control, but next to the edge of insanity. And fewer 3s.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Need This One.