The Memphis Grizzlies now have the home court for the next two games against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The 2014 NBA playoffs have been interesting to say the least, with the underdog teams all putting up a great fight in their respective series across both conferences. The Grizzlies, however, have a real shot at swinging the momentum their way and capturing a pivotal win in this third game.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are as dangerous on the road as they are on their home turf, so the Grizzlies will not get off the hook in terms of dealing with a vastly superior perimeter threat. Despite this, the home court is always important in the NBA, and the crowd will be rocking in Memphis, making it difficult for the Thunder to focus and call out their plays with ease. Miscommunication can be a serious disadvantage to any team, especially one in a high-pressure situation.
The Grizzlies have solidified themselves as the team with the edge in the post in this series. That was one of the more important objectives for Memphis to complete. Now Memphis needs to find a way to at least get close to evening things out in the backcourt.
The most important players here for the Grizzlies at home will be Mike Conley and Tony Allen. Conley has done an acceptable job thus far at leading his team, averaging 17.5 PPG to pair with an astounding 11.5 APG compared to just 1.5 turnovers per game. Conley has done a great job at being a consistent floor general for the Grizzlies, as well as controlling the ball and not giving the Thunder a chance at capitalizing on their ability to force turnovers.
Despite being a great passer and ball handler in the series so far, Conley will have to step it up in the shooting department.
Through the first two games, Conley has only shot 40.6 percent from the floor on 16 attempted field goals per game. This percentage and efficiency will have to come up from one of the team’s main leaders. Conley is arguably the Grizzlies’ best perimeter scorer, so if he cannot score at an efficient rate, that does not bode well for the rest of the players at the guard spots.
The most alarming shooting statistic for Conley so far is that he has not been able to make one 3-point shot so far in the series. Westbrook has done a great job at getting up on Conley and not letting him take many great shots. If Conley wants to truly make a huge impact for his team, then making perimeter shots to space the floor should be one of his priorities going forward.
Allen has a different objective on the floor. He has never been the best offensive player, with his game being limited to slashing towards the basket and getting looks around the rim. Allen is not on this team to space the floor; he is here to be the defensive rock at the guard spot.
He has done a great job guarding Durant thus far in the series. Durant has not been able to get any kind of easy shot when Allen has been the one on him. Allen will need to continue to be that great defender on Durant if the Grizzlies want a chance to win this series. If Durant can get easy looks and start putting in a lot more shots than he already is, then Memphis will have no chance at outscoring Oklahoma City.
This series is all about tempo, and if Allen can continue to be a pest to Durant and slow things down for the Thunder, then the grit-and-grind of Memphis has a chance to win out against the flash-and-flair. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will be counted on once again to lead the frontcourt to a victory in that department, but if the Grizzlies’ perimeter players cannot take their game to another level, then Oklahoma City will win this game and potentially the series.
Look for the backcourt for the Grizzlies to step it up and give the team this game and the momentum in the series.
Prediction: Memphis wins