Gritty Defense Guides Memphis Grizzlies Past Oklahoma City Thunder

By Ryan Ratty
2014 NBA Draft
Joe Murphy-Getty Images

Although they squandered a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime. Annually, the Grizzlies are at the top of the league in terms of points allowed. When Lionel Hollins coached the Grizzlies, he made it primitive that the Grizzlies play tough defense throughout each game. That logic fell down to Dave Joerger since he became the head coach for the Grizzlies. Many people were picking the Thunder to win the NBA Championship, but the Grizzlies are playing like the better team in this series. Tough defense has been the reason why the Grizzlies have outplayed the Thunder in this opening round matchup.

In the 2013-14 regular season, the Thunder averaged 106.2 points per game, and that number was good enough for fifth best in The Association. In Game 3, Memphis kept Oklahoma City to only 95 points, despite playing an extra five minutes. Defense is something the Grizzlies excel in, as they only gave up 94.6 points per game, which was good enough for third in the league behind the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers.

The Grizzlies do not have a star duo like the Thunder have in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but the Grizzlies play together, and that shows. At times, Memphis’ offense looks stagnant. In today’s NBA, more teams rely on their guards more than their big-men. For the Grizzlies, it is the opposite. With his unique skillset, the ball seems to go through Marc Gasol‘s hands each possession. Gasol and Zach Randolph are two of the best big-men passers in the league, which helps Mike Conley run the offense more fluidly.

The Grizzlies have a real opportunity to get to the second round after winning Game 3. As an 8th seed in the 2011 NBA playoffs, the Grizzlies beat the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. Although they are not the 8th seed, the Grizzlies are still playing as underdogs as the 7th seed. Another thing to remember is that the Grizzlies’ roster is awfully similar to the one they had in 2011. With their willingness to play defense and their experience, the Grizzlies are a dangerous team to play right now in the playoffs.

Ryan Ratty is a columnist for Follow him on Twitter @RyanRattyNFL or add him to your network on Google.

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