The Memphis Grizzlies showed in their victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night that they mean business and that this series is far from being over. With a 111-105 win over the Thunder, the Grizzlies evened up the series at one game apiece in what seems like one of the most entertaining first rounds the NBA playoffs have seen in a while.
The Grizzlies had control for most of the game, manning the paint and taking advantage of easy opportunities down low. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 41 points and 13 rebounds, and even though their impact on the glass was not that significant, the fact that they were able to overwhelm the Thunder’s post defenders was more than enough of an advantage during the game. Compare those numbers to the stats of the Thunder’s frontcourt, and it was clear Oklahoma City was no match in the paint. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins only combined for 19 points and 15 rebounds, showing that their impact was limited in comparison to the Grizzlies’ big men.
The player who had arguably the biggest impact in the game was Mike Conley of the Grizzlies. Conley put up a near triple-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds to go along with 12 assists. Conley has been a catalyst for the Grizzlies early on in the series, and that will certainly have to continue if Memphis expects to upset Oklahoma City. Not only did Conley make an impact in the backcourt, but Tony Allen did as well. Allen’s tenacious defense made Kevin Durant‘s life difficult, and even though Durant still managed to score 36 points, Allen did a great job of contesting Durant and making it tough for Durant’s teammates to get him the ball.
The Grizzlies are going to be able to play defense when it counts; that is what got the team this far. Offensively, the Grizzlies will have to keep taking advantage of easy opportunities and be as efficient scoring the ball as they were in the second game, shooting 49.4 percent overall from the floor.
More importantly, the Grizzlies must protect their home court going forward.
The Grizzlies did what they had to do in order to make it a series by going into Oklahoma City and stealing a game on the road. If the Grizzlies can take advantage of their loud crowd back home, they could potentially be up three games to one, which would put tremendous pressure on the Thunder to win three straight games to avoid being knocked out of the playoffs. If Oklahoma City can win one of the next two on the road, then the series will swing heavily in their favor, as two of the remaining three games after Game 4 would be on the Thunder’s home turf.
The Grizzlies have a real shot at winning this series thanks to their defense and ability to get efficient shots inside from Randolph and Gasol. However, if they cannot win the next two games they have at home, a series victory will be awfully difficult to come by.
Memphis is a good team, but the great teams protect home court and advance to the next round.