Who: Memphis Grizzlies lead the Oklahoma City Thunder 2-1
When: Saturday, April 25th, 8:30 PM CST
Where: THE GRINDHOUSE!
Watch: SportSouth, ESPN
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
Hey Russell, know what the Grindhouse is, yet? After surviving two consecutive cardiac events in the form of overtime thrillers, and equally as many late-game 4-point plays by the Thunder, the Grizzlies look to firmly entrench themselves in the driver’s seat of this series and go up 3-1 with another win at the FedEx Forum, tonight. Doing so, however, will be no small task. As the Grizz have learned, no lead is safe against a high-octane team like the Thunder that could string together a booming 15 point swing in a matter of minutes.
Tony Allen vs. Kevin Durant - At this point, anything pertaining to the state of this series will have to begin and end with a discussion of the story that everybody’s gushing about, right? Of course, I’m talking about the defensive performance of the Grindfather against the likely League-MVP-to-be Kevin Durant. We as a collective love to build a good narrative around what goes on between the lines in sports, and what better story to tell than that of a clash between two yin-and-yang titans? These two players could hardly exist as any more of a contrast to one another, and the result has been captivating thus far; though likely because fortune has favored the good guys to this point. How much so, exactly? See for yourself:
Digesting the above data basically quantifies what we already knew: Tony Allen ain’t going to make life easy for you. For starters, Durant is shooting 12 percentage points worse when Allen is on the court (which means guarding him, save a few minutes of the last game).
What’s more salient, however, is the disparity in how his points are being created. When Allen is off the court, almost 70% of Durant’s baskets are coming from the Thunder “giving the ball to Tucker.” For those of you that weren’t raised on a steady diet of Nickelodeon cartoons, this means that 70% of Durant’s field goals have come from the Thunder dumping the ball off to KD and telling him to just do his thing. The fact that only 27% of his field goals are manufactured by these means with Allen on the floor tells us exactly what we want to hear — that Allen is making it difficult for him.
To a very similar tune, look at the proportion of KD’s points coming in the paint. Durant is generating 69% of his points inside the painted area when Allen is on the bench, but only 29% of his points are coming from the paint when Allen is on the floor. My guess is that the fact that these two stats are highly correlated is no mistake, and that this can be boiled down to Durant getting around his man and to the basket unless that man is Allen.
So that’s what the stats say about this one. I’m not going to gloat about this one too much for fear of kicking a hornet’s nest, but if you crave more of TA vs. KD matchup, I would highly recommend 3SOB’s own Antonia Bufalino’s write up, which you can sink your teeth into here.
Things to Look out For
- Oklahoma City trapping on screens - The 4th quarter stagnation was an abomination in Game 3, and this was largely the culprit. The Grizzlies tried desperately to get Mike Conley some space through the pick and roll/pop, and the Thunder were having none of it. It felt as if the Grizz were stuck within a continuous loop of attempting a high screen, Conley getting caught in a trap, the shot clock winding down, and Zach Randolph or TA being stuck hoisting up an unheralded attempt at the buzzer. When opposing teams can successfully deny Conley space, and stifle his penetration early in the clock, it makes it easier for them to keep the bigs out of the play, and the Grizzlies are exposed for their lack of contingency plan on offense. The Grizz must have a plan-B to keep the offense fluid (as fluid as can be, at least) and prevent the ball from sticking, this night.
- The Play of Courtney Lee – … and to a lesser extent Mike Miller, but Courtney is heavily relied upon to deliver at both ends of the floor. He hasn’t quite been the “plus” defender as advertised since being traded to Memphis, but the ability is there. As long as he can spare Conley from the task of chasing Westbrook around on the defensive end, and keep the explosive Thunder guard in front of him, I’d call it a job well done on that front. As for the offense, the Grizzlies are a different team when Courtney is aggressive in probing with the ball and asserting his mid-range prowess through some crafty pull-ups.
- The Battle of the Glass – In Game One, the Grizzlies essentially got their doors blown off and they were simply outworked as far as the boards go, posting a -10 rebound differential. In Games Two and Three respectively, they put up far more acceptable measures of -1 and -2. What’s the big deal? Well it’s no secret that controlling the pace is one of the keys to the series, and the Thunder have exhibited a tendency to turn defensive rebounds into turnovers, so to speak, by pushing the ball up court off the bounce. The more the good guys can keep Oklahoma City off the glass and out of transition, the better they will tend to fare. Lastly, this would be as good a time as any to point out that Tony Allen has been instrumental with regards to corralling the long rebounds and is averaging 7.7 rebounds per game on the series.
- The Bench – I’m still getting used to calling Allen a member of the Grizzlies’ “bench,” so to speak, but some of the other bench guys have been critical to the Grizzlies’ successes thus far, as well — none bigger than Beno Udrih. Beno was an afterthought outside of his outstanding foray into the world of Twitter, but once the word of Nick Calathes’s suspension came down, he became a crucial rotation piece. Who in their right mind had it projected heading into the series that Beno would have scored a combined 26 points on 14 shots between games Two and Three? And credit Kosta Koufos for staying ready and coming up big when his number is called. Going to need more of this tonight, with starter rest at an absolute premium this time of year.
3 Shades Deeper into the Series
- Be sure to tune into 3SOB Radio with Jonathan May and Josh Coleman this morning at 8am featuring Steve Kyler, Brian Davis, Weston Shepard, and the one and only Brevin Knight, partner!
- Refresh your memory of games 1, 2, and 3, with top notch recap coverage compliments of Zach Thomas and Matthew Noe.
- Check out the pre-series “Matchup Madness” post, for a rundown of the rosters from top-to-bottom.
- As referenced earlier in the post, 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.
- There will be a Game 5 watch party, which you all should attend!
- And of course, follow the 3SOB team on Twitter!