GAME: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City
Time: 7:00 pm CST
PLACE: The FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (0-1), Oklahoma City (2-0)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Oklahoma City – Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefalosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins
Memphis comes off of a loss to the team they vanquished in the playoffs last spring, while the Thunder have won both of their contests in the opening week of the season. This matchup of the West’s two youngest, most exciting playoff teams of last season has been much-anticipated ever since the end of Game 7 in OKC last May.
For the Grizzlies in their season opener, it was a tale of two halves, although one could argue that both halves were ugly. The primary difference in the two was that Memphis kept pace with the Spurs in the first stanza, going into halftime with a one-point edge, but fell apart in the third quarter, getting outscored by 15 as San Antonio more than doubled up on them, 29-14. Turnovers were the story of the game with Memphis committing 24 of them for the game. Obviously, they will need to address that, given that their #1 ranking in turnover differential and steals per game were a big reason for their success last year.
The Thunder, on the other hand, have reeled off two wins — one in dominant fashion against Orlando and then one over a resilient Minnesota squad that took them to the wire. They simply rolled over the Magic, but had to claw their way to a victory against the T’Wolves that came down to one, simple, oft-overlooked facet of the game: free throws. That’s right. They squeaked out a 4-point win in large part because they hit 29 of their 31 FT attempts on Monday night. Most of the other team stats were identical, with that one exception, as they shot 93.5%, while Minnesota only converted 19 of 26 (73.1%).
The key for Memphis in this game is something they obviously forgot to do on Monday night: Get Z-Bo going. I know that the Spurs play great defense, especially in the post. But for him to only record 8 shots in nearly 30 minutes of play is inexcusable. It’s not like Marc was taking them away from him either, as he only had 6 shots (hitting 5 of them!) in the contest. They will have to figure out how to reintegrate Rudy Gay into the offense over the next few games, but they’d better start feeding the big dogs in the meantime.
OKC will just need to keep doing what they’ve been doing, which basically means a lot of shots for Durant, Westbrook, and James Harden. Their big men aren’t scorers by trade, so the bulk of their points will continue to come from their perimeter players. Westbrook will have to take better care of the ball after 14 turnovers in his first two games, as the active hands of the Grizzlies’ defenders will be waiting to pluck errant passes and lazy ballhandling away from him. It will be interesting to see how Durant plays against this team now that he’ll have to work on defense with Rudy Gay back on the court.
Prediction: Grizzlies win a tight one.