The Thunder did not take it easy on the Grizzlies in the first game of the series, as they put the beat on Memphis in a 100-86 win. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 56 points on 21-of-44 shooting, winning the battle on the perimeter against the Grizzlies. Serge Ibaka also had a big game in the post for the Thunder as he scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds to go along with four blocks.
The Thunder raced out to a blistering start, securing a 56-34 halftime lead and really putting the pressure on the Grizzlies. Memphis did not give up and fought back, cutting the deficit to single digits multiple times throughout the third and fourth quarters, but Oklahoma City proved to be too much and pulled away late in the fourth to lock up a double-digit win over the Grizzlies.
The good news for the Grizzlies is that they did get good production out of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, as the two combined for 37 points and 17 rebounds. But Memphis will have to have greater control in the post, especially the offensive glass, if they are expected to come in and really take control of this series as it shifts back to the Grizzlies’ home court. The Grizzlies did win the battle on the offensive boards by six, but 13 total will not be enough because the team needs easy scoring opportunities due to their lack of strong perimeter shooting. Overall, the Grizzlies cannot be expected to win the series when getting outrebounded by such a high margin (51-41 total advantage rebounding the ball for the Thunder).
The Grizzlies can try to contain Westbrook and Durant, but those two will get theirs and score until they can’t score anymore. Memphis needs to focus on containing the main support scoring threats such as Ibaka and Caron Butler, and more importantly they have to do a better job at being efficient on the offensive end.
Oklahoma City is an underrated defensive squad, but 36.3 percent shooting from the field is not going to get it done for the Grizzlies. Memphis will have to come out with a different mentality this game and look for easier scoring opportunities down low for Gasol to get the ball. Once Gasol gets the ball, he is a gifted enough passer to find his teammates out on the perimeter for good looks from deep. Mike Conley had a decent night, especially in the passing department (11 assists), but his 6-for-16 night from the floor cannot be replicated again if the Grizzlies expect to steal a game on the road. Conley, as well as Mike Miller (1-for-6) will have to step it up and make perimeter shots for this team in order to open up the paint for the big boys.
Efficiency will be key for the next game in the series, but there is no reason why the Grizzlies will not come out and show what they are made of after being embarrassed in the first game. The Thunder will once again win the battle on the perimeter as they do against most teams in the NBA, but the Grizzlies will be a lot more efficient shooting the basketball and will take the fight into the post where the Thunder cannot match up if Gasol and Randolph can make the most of opportunities around the rim and on the offensive glass.
The Grizzlies need to be as close to perfect as possible when playing the Thunder; Durant and Westbrook are just that good. On this night, however, Memphis will come out and get the job done to even up the series and go back home where they have the advantage.
Prediction: Memphis Wins Game 2