The 3 Shades Of Blue team has a ton of great content coming your way over the next few days as we prepare for Game 1 of the Grizzlies & Thunder, and there will be plenty of talk about key match-ups, things to watch, etc. here at 3SOB.com. Before we dive into all that, I felt that the best place to start an evaluation of the first round series between the Grizzlies and Thunder is to take a look back at the recent history of the series. Fortunately, unlike my Spurs retrospective, this one doesn’t require quite as much…delusion?
The Thunder/Supersonics hold a commanding 50-21 edge over the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies in the all-time regular season series. This is a totally worthless statistic, of course, when you consider how dramatically bad the Canadian iteration of the Grizzlies was at a time when the George Karl-led Supersonics were a pretty damned good team/franchise.
If you only consider the series history after the two teams settled into their respective new homes, the Thunder hold a 13-9 lead over the Grizzlies in 22 regular season match-ups.
The most useful record tracks the series history during the “modern era” which I defined as 2010/2011 to present. Over these 4 seasons, the Thunder hold an 8-7 edge over the Grizzlies in regular season match-ups, including a 3-1 advantage in the 2013/2014 regular season. The actual aggregate scoring over these 15 games is incredibly close, with the Thunder outscoring the Grizzlies 1,496 to 1,460 for an edge of 37 points or an average of 2.4 points/game.
This marks the third time in four seasons that the Grizzlies and Thunder will meet in the Playoffs. In 12 post-season games, the Grizzlies hold a 7-5 edge over the Thunder and the teams have split the two series. In 2011, the Thunder defeated the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Semi-Finals but needed 7 games to do so. In 2013, the Grizzlies eliminated the (admittedly Russel Westbrook-less) Thunder 4-1 in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
A closer look at these 12 playoff games really paints a picture of how evenly matched the teams have been. Over the two series, the Thunder have outscored the Grizzlies 1,173 to 1,165, or by a total of 8 points and an average of .6 points/game. The teams have had 3 playoff games go to OT, with the Thunder holding a 2-1 edge in those games.
What does it mean?
Nothing, of course. The past is the past and this series could be dramatically different. The Thunder are talented, deep and led by arguably the most dangerous player in the NBA in Kevin Durant. The Thunder will be favored by almost all of the national media, and even many Grizzlies fans will have a hard time picking the Grizzlies to advance out of this first round series. However, if recent trends hold true, the series stands to be among the most exciting and competitive in the first round and it may well be a toss-up which team moves on to the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
While I will leave the detailed analysis to people smarter than myself, one thing that I find most interesting about the OKC/MEM series is that it has been a very long time since the teams played when both rosters were at full strength. In 2011, the Grizzlies were without Rudy Gay. In 2013, the Thunder were obviously without Russell Westbrook. During the 2013-2014 regular season, the Grizzlies were without Marc Gasol for the first game and Tony Allen for the second and third games. Kendrick Perkins missed the final meeting of the season. As the series gets underway, the Thunder have no injuries and the Grizzlies are only expected to be without Quincy Pondexter, who has missed essentially the entire season. We finally get a chance to see how these teams match-up with their full compliment of weapons, which should make the series all the more entertaining.
By the way, you’re going to want to make sure you tune in to 3SOBRadio on Saturday morning. We will be talking to Bob Barry, Jr. (of NBC4 in Oklahoma City) and Chuck Chaney (of ThunderObsessed.com) to get the OKC perspective on the series. We will also be talking with Grantland’s own Jonathan Abrams about the Grizzlies season, playoff match-ups and more. The party starts at 8am on Sports56WHBQ (AM560/FM87.7) or streaming online at Sports56WHBQ.com. And of course, make sure you keep checking back with 3 Shades of Blue for more detailed analysis of the Grizzlies and Thunder including all of your pre- and post-game coverage.
Grind on, Memphis!