After withstanding what seemed like one of the best shots from the Memphis Grizzlies in game one, the Oklahoma City Thunder saw the Grizzlies real best shot on Monday night in game two. The Thunder weren’t ready and, even after improbably forcing overtime, fell to Memphis to even the series at 1-1.
Based solely on what each team did in the regular season, this should be no contest. The Thunder have been one of the most dominant teams in the league this season while the Grizzlies had to fight ferociously just to make it into the 2014 NBA Playoffs. However, that’s not the way things work in the Association.
Memphis was able to have a much more efficient night in the post between Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, greatly helping their cause in game two. Moreover, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook produced, but certainly weren’t at their best in a Thunder offense that seemed out of sorts for most of the night.
The biggest factor in the game and arguably the biggest reason why the Thunder’s offense was out-of-sync was the fact that their role players weren’t able to get it done. Serge Ibaka was decent on the night, but reserves Nick Collison, Caron Butler and Reggie Jackson combined for just seven points on the night.
When guys like Jackson and Butler aren’t producing, it puts the Thunder at a huge disadvantage offensively. When those guys come off of the bench and are able to make things happen, it opens up the game offensively for Durant and Westbrook because defenses, particularly a good defense like Memphis’, can’t swarm and focus all of their attention on OKC’s stars.
As the series leaves Oklahoma City, the Thunder have to find a way to get their role players good shots and make them factors in this series. While this team has the talent to win even if that doesn’t happen, it would certainly make their lives much easier moving into the second round and beyond.