The Memphis Grizzlies‘ top bigs in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined for a total of 38 points and 20 rebounds in a losing effort against the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday afternoon in game one of the series. Even though Gasol and Randolph were the top scorers and main contributors for the Grizzlies, the Thunder will certainly live with their solid defensive performance which kept Gasol and Randolph from controlling the game.
The key for the Thunder in their series with the Grizzlies will be defense; specifically, the defense of Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison. The Grizzlies’ bread and butter is their low-post offense with Gasol and Randolph. If the Thunder can limit the Grizzlies’ bigs and work the boards, Oklahoma City will have a great chance of winning the series handily.
I honestly feel the Thunder match up much better with the Grizzlies than they did with the Houston Rockets in the first round. The Rockets forced the Thunder to spread out on defense and cover the perimeter, which the Thunder had a lot of trouble doing. The Grizzlies like to slow the game down and bang in the paint, and that is more of the style of play the Thunder are more comfortable with.
In game one, Ibaka and Perkins really disrupted the Grizzlies with tough, physical defense. Even though the Thunder struggled on offense in the first and third quarters, their defense ultimately kept them in the game and provided a pivotal win at home.
If the Thunder can continue a trend of solid defensive performance against this Grizzlies team, they will advance to the Western Conference Finals for the second consecutive year.