I feel like up until Monday night, I had treated this series rather casually. Sure we were in the playoffs again, and I was thrilled, but I didn’t have the same bloodthirsty anticipation that I did for the past two playoff years. I think it was because I knew the Grizzlies were a huge underdog, and acting like they have a real shot will make you seem like a huge homer. Well, after what happened in Game 2, I’m throwing that entire attitude out the window. It’s on now, baby!
First off, I’d just like to remind you all that I ended my last post by pointing out that Beno stepping up would be a huge deal for the Grizzlies, and sure enough, he puts in 14 points, and one point, he absolutely could not miss. I wasn’t sure how to react to the Calathes suspension, but I was fairly optimistic knowing we had a veteran with a championship ring on our side in Beno. Sure enough, he stepped up when we needed him, and played a huge role in the Grizzlies getting the win. I’m not expecting him to play that well every night, but after his brilliant Game 2 performance, I’ve become far less nervous about the lack of Calathes. The Grizzlies have a better backup point guard than they have during any previous playoff run. And that’s really going to help.
Now, let’s talk about the Grindfather. Holy crap, did he step up. We saw glowing pieces on him yesterday from both Deadspin and Grantland, and it’s wonderful to see the national media acknowledging what he’s capable of. Kevin Durant is the best offensive player in the NBA, and at times it feels hopeless to even contain him, much less stop him. But TA was up to the task, somehow neutralizing the MVP during the biggest stretch of the game. Like many others, I’ve had mixed feelings about Joerger’s decision to remove him from the starting lineup – I get it from a spacing stand point, but I’d rather take out Prince – but after his stunning defensive work in Game 2, it’s quite clear that he’s an essential part of this team whether he’s starting or not.
After watching Game 2, I’m convinced that the Grizzlies can win this series. Whether they will is a different question, but if they can pull off a win like that on the road, with Durant and Westbrook both on their game, it’s clear that they aren’t going to be overwhelmed by Oklahoma City’s talent. Frankly, they have two great players, and one other very good one in Ibaka, and after that, it’s a crapshoot. The Thunder have the best player in this series, and they might have the best two players (although you could talk me into Gasol or Conley being as essential as Westbrook), but Memphis has the deeper team. The question going forward is whether or not Durant and Westbrook are just going to be too much for Memphis to handle. They may end up prevailing, ut the Grizzlies are deep enough, and capable of enough defensive destruction that it is far from a done deal. The Grizzlies are absolutely capable of taking down OKC. And if they pull off the victory in the Grindhouse tonight, they’ll be in the driver’s seat.