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Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Oklahoma City Thunder
When: 2nd Round, Western Conference playoffs
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK and FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (56-26, 0-1 in Series), Oklahoma City (60-22, 1-0 in Series)
Media: TNT, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of BlueGrizzlies Message Board
Opposing Views: Daily Thunder

Game 2 tips off at 8:30PM on May 7th and will be broadcast on TNT.

Grizzlies LogoMemphis had their chances in Game 1 but struggles at the free throw line, in the paint, and off the bench eventually left the team falling just short of stealing a win in game 1. Led by the tandem of Marc Gasol (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Zach Randolph (18 points, 10 rebounds), the Grizzlies seemed in control taking a 9 point lead into the fourth quarter but were unable to hang on being outscored 27-17 in the final period. Particularly disappointing was Mike Conley who was 5-15 in the game and was involved in both turnovers on the last two possessions before the final free throw attempts. With Russell Westbrook out with a knee injury, Conley was counted on to dominate his matchup against Reggie Jackson, but failed to do that. Free throws have become a major problem for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies were hitting 80% of their attempts in November but have fallen dramatically over the last few months culminating in the 58% shooting in Game 1. Discounting the final FT which was missed on purpose the Grizzlies made just 7 of 12 attempts in the second half. The bench, outside of Quincy Pondexter, failed to score in the second half. Tony Allen, coming off one of his best games ever against the Clippers in Game 6, played only 21 minutes and never made a big impact on the game. To turn the series around the Grizzlies will need greater offensive production from their starting backcourt, better rebounding and improved defense on the Thunder’s two main scorers. It is unlikely the perimeter shooting will improve on the game 1 performance. Like the Clippers series, when the Grizzlies are out-rebounded it is very difficult for them to win games.

thunder logoOklahoma City struggled to score for most of the game but found their offense in the final period to squeak out the win. All-Star Kevin Durant (35 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists) and Grizz Killer Kevin Martin (25 points, 7 rebounds) scored 18 of the team’s 29 points in the final period. Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher added 10 points in the 4th accounting for the majority of points for the Thunder. The Thunder were able to overcome a sub-par offensive efforts from Serge Ibaka (1-10, 5 points, 5 boards), Kendrick Perkins (1-6, 2 points, 7 boards) and sub Nick Collison (1-3, 2 points, 4 rebounds) by packing the defense in the paint and daring the Grizzlies to beat them from the perimeter. It nearly cost the Thunder as the Grizzlies hit 7-19 from the perimeter (36.8%) compared to only 5-15 for the Thunder.  The Thunder will be counting on their bigs to contain the Grizzlies inside game while hoping Ibaka improves on his shooting to win the series. The Thunder will not try to change too much from their game plan in Game 1 as the chances of Memphis containing OKC to just 14 first quarter points is highly unlikely. However, to the Thunder also know that they can’t count on Durant and Martin to lead the team in rebounding if they want to win the series.

– For the 3rd time in the playoffs the Grizzlies were beaten on the boards. Not-so-coincidentally, the Grizzlies lost all three games. The Grizzlies big men each had 10 boards, but the help rebounders were beaten by Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin swooping in to grab 22 rebounds between them.

-Part of the problem with rebounding could be attributed to Tony Allen playing only 20:31 in the game. Memphis has an incredible record in games where Allen plays at least 25 minutes. The Grizzlies are 34-15 in games where Allen has played 25 minutes or more this season. That is a 71% winning percentage. Allen is also considered among the best rebounding and defensive guards in the game. Kevin Martin’s 25 points and 7 rebounds makes you wonder where Allen was when Martin was on the court.

– Memphis failed to win the battle of the boards, but that wasn’t the only killer stat in the game. The 58.3% shooting percentage from the free throw line proved too costly in this close game. If the Grizzlies just made 75% of their attempts the Grizzlies would have won by 2 points. The Grizzlies seasonal average from the line was 77.3%.

– Derek Fisher and Reggie Jackson were supposed to be a liability against Mike Conley, but the duo outperformed Conley all game, holding the Grizzlies PG to just 5-15 shooting. Also, Fisher created the turnover that led to Durant’s winning basket by swiping the ball from behind as Conley drove the lane. If this continues, then the Grizzlies will be hard-pressed to win the series.

– With the Thunder protecting the paint, the Grizzlies settled for too many perimeter shots. Despite hitting a respectable percentage, that is not the Grizzlies game. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were unable to get enough touches to put pressure on the Thunder’s interior big men who were able to play their normal minutes and avoid foul trouble for the most part. Each of the Thunder’s bigs ended with only 4 fouls each. The Thunder have only Hasheem Thabeet behind their big three, so early foul trouble for the frontcourt would appear to be an advantage the Grizzlies failed to achieve in Game 1.

Some Final Musings:
For the first time I can remember, Memphis is considered the clear favorite in this series. ESPN did a survey of knowledgeable bloggers, and all five predicted the Grizzlies in 6 games. While the team can still achieve that with a loss tonight, as they did against the Clippers, it would be much easier to win in 6 games by splitting the first two games in Oklahoma City.

– While a disappointing loss in Game 1, people need to realize that the Grizzlies were 19 points closer in Game 1 against the Thunder than they were in Game 1 against the Clippers. The first game against the Thunder had much more in common with Game 2 against the Clippers where the Grizzlies missed 11 free throws, were out-rebounded by 2 and lost on a last second shot by the opposing team’s star. The final score of 93-91 was the same in both games as well.

– Both teams should be more rested in Game 2 after having to travel and play 36 hours after ending their first round series. The Thunder’s deeper bench was instrumental in the first game as the Thunder’s had only one player on the court for more than 35 minutes. The Grizzlies played 4 starters at least 36 minutes in Game 1. Fatigue may have had something to do with the Thunder’s 4th quarter comeback.

– The Grizzlies have now held 53 of 54 opponents under 25 points in the 3rd quarter dating back to January 14. The Clippers in Game 6 are the only team in that stretch to score more than 25 points in the 3rd quarter. Oklahoma City was held to 17 points in the 3rd quarter. The 93 points scored by the Thunder was the lowest point total for the Thunder so far in the playoffs. The Thunder scored over 100 points in all 6 games against Houston. The 91 points scored by the Grizzlies ties the lowest points surrendered by the Thunder matching the Rockets score in Game 1 of the first round. In game 2 the Rockets scored 102 points.

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