By Cody Williams @TheSizzle20 on April 17, 2014
The Thunder have weathered a number of injuries, most notably to Russell Westbrook, to land the two-seed. The Grizzlies have weathered their share of injuries as well, in addition to an awful start to the year, to slip into the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the seven-seed. Now healthy, how do these two teams match up with one another?
Mike Conley is one of the more underappreciated players in the league, but has struggled against the Thunder this season. Moreover, Westbrook is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league that can create things that most players in the NBA are unable to. Westbrook takes the cake in this matchup.
The matchup between Sefolosha and Lee is one to keep an eye on as the contributions of role players could be a major factor in the series. Though Lee has been quite good this season with Memphis, I have to give the edge to Sefolosha for what he can do defensively and the offensive opportunities he gets in the OKC’s offense.
This is an enormous mismatch. Durant has been the best player in the NBA this season while Prince has looked incredibly washed up. The Grizzlies are going to be at a severe disadvantage when these two are matched up.
In year’s past, I would have likely given the advantage to Randolph here despite his severe athletic disadvantage against Ibaka. Z-Bo’s savvy and post-moves would have been too much for Ibaka. With the way the Thunder forward has performed this season on both ends of the floor, it’s hard to imagine him not having the advantage, even if only slightly, over the veteran.
Another huge mismatch in this series is at the center position, but this one works in favor of Memphis. Gasol is one of the smartest and most versatile big men in the league while Perkins is a liability. Perkins’ size could help him have some value, but Gasol can match that and should still be a force in this series.
With the emergence of Steven Adams, the perimeter shooting of Caron Butler and Jeremy Lamb, and the explosiveness of Reggie Jackson, I’m not sure the Grizzlies have enough firepower on their bench to keep up with the Thunder’s reserves. Mike Miller should be a big factor, but OKC has a much deeper and versatile attack off of the bench.
Both Brooks and Joerger have had some questionable moments this season and aren’t guys I fully trust in terms of their coaching abilities. However, Brooks’ playoff experience gives him the edge in this department against a rookie head coach in Joerger.
The Thunder took the season-series between the two teams 3-1 with OKC really dominating most statistical categories over those four games. The Grizzlies knocked off the Thunder (without Westbrook) in the second round of the playoffs last year. Pace will be interesting to watch in this series as the Thunder play at the ninth fastest in the league in comparison to Memphis who played the slowest in the NBA.
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