It’s here. That time of year when NBA junkiedom rises to a new level. Especially for Grizzlies fans who have spent the last three months wondering if the team would even be playing during the third week of April. Suuuuure would have been nice to have Calathes around for this series and any subsequent series, but rules are rules. No matter how silly. On to what we hope will be the first of many sets of seven things about the Grizzlies in the 2014 NBA playoffs…Thing one: Almost misspelled that “thing eon”, and “eons” is how long it may very well be until the NBA sees another pure scorer as smooth as Kevin Durant. Grizzlies fan, Thunder fan, or any other NBA or basketball fan…is he the best there is? Hard to argue. 13 of 25 for 33 points and scared a triple double. He’s as deadly as Rip Hamilton ever was coming off that down-screen curl, killed the Grizzlies in the fourth (13 points), and helped stop the bleeding in the third.
Thing two: BENO. Yes, we all know he’s worn some reasonably large playoff shoes in the past. What we did not know was how he’d respond to guarding two PDQ (that’s “pretty darn quick” for those of you who don’t know) guards at various times. Beno looked like he wasn’t all that familiar with how things are supposed to work on offense, and he surely didn’t seem to understand the concept of “free throw”-1/4 FT’s is just killing me.
Thing three: The Tony Allen issue. Or is it a non-issue? Looks to be a non-issue. He played 33 minutes and was the only Grizzly with a positive +/- (sorry, Leuer, you only played a minute). He did give us some TA tricks (that awful inbounds “pass”, the total lost ball on the break), but he gave us plenty of treats too (most notably the and-one layup in the third against Durant on the break and he smart leakout off the jump ball for a dunk). Whatever friction there may have been between TA and Joerger or TA and anyone else must be forgotten.
Thing four: Rebounding. It’s huge. For the Grizzlies to have a snake’s chance to win this series, Gasol, ZBo, and Koufos (Ed Davis?) are going to have to do well on the glass against OKC. This we know. However, rebounding from the wing and guard positions will be just as important, as long shots beget long rebounds and leakouts. Guess what happened in this game? That’s right, a bunch of long rebounds that went to the Thunder. Lots of which led to fast break points, and the Thunder had over thirty for the game. Following a terribly disturbing trend from the regular season, the Grizzlies lost the rebounding battle by double digits and lost the game.
Thing five: The Conley/Westbrook matchup. Keeping Westbrook on the outside is imperative-he won’t get to the foul line from there nearly as often, and he will launch very ill-advised clangers in transition. He became the Westbrook that leads people to say that the Thunder are better off without him at times-to wit, he went 0-5 from deep. However, he went 7-7 from the line and had 23-10, although Conley almost matched him in production.
Thing six: Stop whining about the officiating. 25 fouls called on OKC, 24 on Grizzlies. Grizzlies with 29 FTA’s, OKC with 32. The Zebras did not lose this game for the Grizzlies.
Thing seven: Victory or defeat? Defeat by first quarter. Sure, the Grizzlies made a game of it-but wearing out the starters like that took a great toll later in the game.
-Serge Ibaka is the biggest problem for the Grizzlies. His defensive stance is seemingly eleven feet wide, and his court coverage is like a hyper-active Darrell Arthur.
-The Grizzlies had only six turnovers. That’s wonderful. The Grizzlies shot under 37%for the game, that’s not. The Grizzlies gave up 22 assists on 34 makes. That’s not. But most un-wonderful? The Grizzlies took 91 FGA’s, and the Thunder took only 76, and lost the game by a fairly wide margin.
Basically, ouchies all around. Not the best beginning to the playoff run, but not as bad as it could have been. Not even close.