Who: Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder (Series tied 3-3)
When: Saturday, May 3rd, 7:00 PM CST
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Watch: TNT, SportSouth, Grizzlies Watch Party
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
Here we stand: just hours away from staring down the barrel of the rubber game of this absolute insanity of a series. What better way to cap off a series that has seen four consecutive overtime bouts adorn its ethos than a Game 7 with the chance for the Grizzlies to roar into Oklahoma City undermanned, over-matched, fatigued, and rip this series right out of the hands of the darling Thunder. The stage is set the Grizzlies to avenge the embarrassment that was Game 6 on their home court, and it’s up to them to seize the opportunity.
Come out victorious and you’re watching the following game tonight with a purpose — the winner of which becomes the enemy for the next two weeks. Lose, and it’s time to discuss who’s played their last game with “Memphis” across their chest. Ain’t nobody ready for that.
The moment lends itself to two simple things, Grizzly fans: catharsis and chaos.
- The Zach Randolph Suspension - There are basically two ways to look at this one: fully-rational, and the other… well, let’s call it “angry-rational.” Given the sub-header above this section, let’s look at it from the latter. If you haven’t seen the incident in question, look below. One can live with what Zbo did being called as a flagrant — maybe even a mid-game ejection, if we’re really feeling punitive. But suspension from Game 7? Despite Mike Scott of Atlanta getting off “scott-free”? Come on, man, that wasn’t a real punch.
- The Other Maladies - Can’t catch a damn break, can we? On a play that in all likelihood should have been a foul on Kendrick Perkins, Mike Conley did some harm to his hammy in the middle of a scrum for the loose ball. He tried hobbling back onto the court amid the blowout, but the dude could hardly walk at the time, and by many accounts was merely “dragging” his right leg around in the locker room after the game. He’s a warrior, so you know he’s going to be out there tonight, but what fraction of “true Conley” is going to be carrying the burden of this game on his shoulders remains to be seen.But Conley’s not the only one hampered coming into this one. The absolute key to this series, the Grindfather, himself, was seen wearing sunglasses while not participating in this morning’s shootaround, the culprit of which according to the Commercial Appeal’s Geoff Calkins is noted below. Calkins followed the Tweet by stating that the Grizzlies are hoping that he will respond to treatment, but it’s not looking good. It’s one thing to be without Zach. It’s another thing for Conley to be feeling off. It’s another layer of frustration to have Tony Allen limited.
Tony Allen woke this morning with swelling in his eye, the result of Caron Butler scratching/hitting him in Game 6. Seeing eye doc now.
— Geoff Calkins (@geoff_calkins) May 3, 2014
And nobody’s mentioned the state of Marc Gasol lately, but between the knee and ankle issues, you know he’s not playing with a full deck. Heck, Quincy Pondexter shot warmups earlier in the series… might as well dress and throw him out there as a pinch hitter and swing for the fences…
- The Unjustifiable Misses - In Game 6, the Grizzlies shot 46% in the restricted area. Now of course, the shotblock party of Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka certainly had a hand in this, but regardless, 46% that close to the basket is just unacceptable. Especially if your a team like the Grizzlies that has been, ahem, “perimeter deficient” on offense, to put it kindly. “But they’ve been getting hacked in the paint!” Sure, but even when they’ve been rewarded with free throws, it’s been bricks away. Free throw shooting has been a team-wide epidemic this series. They’re shooting a collective 69.4% from the stripe in the playoffs — a number which would place them above just the lowly Detroit Pistons if it was their season average.
- Russell Westbrook - Is there anything more annoying than this guy’s posing and mean-muggin’ after every single shot? Ugh.
- “Mr. Unreliable” - Think I just answered my own question. Who else is tired of hearing about this damn headline?
Catharsis is great fun, but that’s off the chest and there’s still a game to be played. How do the Grizzlies come out on top tonight? One way is by introducing chaos. The Grizzlies have played this entire season on the highwire. Certainty was long-lost, long-ago, and for a team that has essentially been playing playoff games since January to work themselves back into the discussion, the only way to top the madness was with a series like this one.
If I’m Dave Joerger, my pregame speech is simple tonight… just rattle off this bad boy complements of Lord Petyr Baelish, an opportunistic conspirator from Game of Thrones:
So what type of chaos can the Grizzlies realistically induce, and ultimately capitalize on?
- Going Small - Zach Randolph’s absence creates some interesting opportunities for Joerger to pull out of his pocket. Prolonged exposure for a lineup featuring Beno Udrih alongside Mike Conley, and spreading their court with Mike Miller, perhaps would be interesting. Maybe some James Johnson at the four. The hope would be that the Thunder have not gameplanned how to stop a smaller Grizzlies attack, and the good guys would catch them off-guard. The fear, however, with a lineup like this is obvious. Whether or not Scott Brooks knows this, going small is really what the Thunder do best. The more we encourage him to keep Kendrick Perkins on the bench, the better off they are in the long run. Not to mention, who the heck guards Westbrook?
- Unleash the Leuer – The beloved “Johnny Badger” has seen a whole 4 minutes this series, but who knows? His ability to stretch the floor at the 4 position could help pull the Thunder’s fly-swatting bigs away from the basket enabling the perimeter guys to get into the paint a little. In addition, he adds another option to kick it to when the Thunder over-commit to trapping Conley on the pick-n-roll. He did score 17 points earlier in a game against Oklahoma City this season. You know, this was intended as a kind of tongue-in-cheek bullet point going in, but I’m talking myself into appreciating this idea as a chaos-inducing measure. He’s a defensive sieve, but you pick your poisons at this point, right?
- James Johnson instead of Tayshaun Prince - You can’t talk chaos and the Grizzlies without Johnson, can you? Joerger has called upon him a little bit this series, mostly to the team’s detriment, but Johnson has come up huge in moments for the Grizz all season. His strengths are his weaknesses and his weaknesses are his strengths, if that makes sense. Prince has been a no-risk, no-return player this season and series. Johnson is high-risk, high-octane, and chaotic return.
- Let it Fly – The ultimate equalizer: the three-pointer. Nothing introduces volatility to NBA returns like going bombs away from the perimeter. Risky? Of course, but the Grizz do have guys that can launch when called upon. Obviously, Mike Miller is the most salient hired gun, but he’s not alone. Courtney Lee can’t be afraid to fire in this one. Mike Conley can’t be gun-shy. Leuer and Udrih have shown they can hit the three in the past. It’s not the Grizzlies’ style, but there are options in this realm. As long as the right guys are shooting them, I have no issue with an aggressive approach from downtown.
What will Joerger do in this situation? Only time will tell, but it’s time for the Grizzlies to come out swinging. If you fall, you fall, but don’t go down without a fight.
Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.
3 Shades Deeper into the Series
- Listen to some inspirational words going into tonight’s matchup.
- Check out the pre-series “Matchup Madness” post, for a rundown of the rosters from top-to-bottom.
- Refresh your memory of games 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 with top notch recap coverage compliments of Zach Thomas and Matthew Noe.
- Zach Thomas illustrated the heroic effect of these Grizzlies on the city of Memphis, reminded us this series is not over yet, and dove into the implications of the Zbo suspension.
- Chip Crain warned us all about Game 6 before it happened.
- The Grizzlies have been bringing it into overtime all series, and so did Jonathan May, Josh Coleman, and Phillip Dean in last week’s playoff edition of 3SOB Radio, featuring Steve Kyler, Brian Davis, Weston Shepard, and the one and only Brevin Knight, partner!
- Jonathan May ruminates on the prevalence of the statistical absurdities of Game 4.
- Antonia Bufalino took a deeper look at the Tony/KD matchup.
- Jonathan May played nice with an OKC blogger.
- Chip Crain explores an interesting analogy regarding the contrast in play styles, and takes a subsequent peek at an officiating point of emphasis.
- The 3 Shades of Blue fam’s newest member Matty Preston dishes on a new addition to the Forum.
- Zach Thomas goes behind the scenes with the Grizzlies’ entertainment crew.
- And of course, follow the 3SOB team on Twitter!