The Memphis Grizzlies may be up in the series, but if they want to win, then the team must treat this next game as a must win situation.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have two superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and all these two players need is a little momentum to get back in the series and take control. With the fourth game being in Memphis, a Thunder win would swing the series in their favor as Oklahoma City would go back home for the fifth game in the set. The Grizzlies have proven they can win anywhere against anyone, but no team wants to walk on the opposing team’s court for two out of three games expected to close out the series.
Especially when the other team has Durant and Westbrook.
Memphis has the personnel to contend with Oklahoma City as evidenced in previous games in the series, but it is going to take a full team effort tonight to get a huge win. Tony Allen has done his part in guarding Durant so far, as Durant is only shooting 43.8% from the floor, which is low for standards as high as his. Westbrook has shot an even lower percentage from the field at 38.4%, showing that Mike Conley has done a great job at guarding his position. This game is going to come down to how tough can the Grizzlies truly be in guarding Durant and Westbrook. Those two dynamic players will find ways to put points on the board; no one is going to hold them both to low scoring totals. What Memphis can do is limit the amount of good shots they take and make them shoot a lower percentage so that the Grizzlies have a chance to crash the boards and set up their offense, an area that they excel at.
Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have proven that they can handle the load inside against the Thunder, and that will have to continue if Memphis wants to get a huge win to go up three games to one in the series. The biggest thing these two players can do is continue to crowd the paint on defense so that if Westbrook or Durant decide to drive into the lane, then there will at least be some presence inside making it easier for the perimeter defenders to slide in and put bodies around the Thunder shooters. Multiple bodies contesting shots is usually a defensive tactic that can make or break a game on that end of the floor, and so far in the series Durant and Westbrook have not shot the ball well when they have to face a crowd of tough defenders.
Memphis has the talent in the starting unit to get the job done, as they have locked down the starters of Oklahoma City for the most part. However, if the role players of the Thunder can begin to contribute at a reasonable level (Jeremy Lamb, Thabo Sefolosha, Caron Butler and Steven Adams), then all bets may be off, as Durant and Westbrook have both lacked a lot of help against Memphis (only 16.0 points per game off of the bench for the Thunder in the series).
The Grizzlies will grind their way through another tough game with the Thunder, and their home court advantage against Oklahoma City (5-1 at home against the Thunder all-time in the playoffs) should play out once again in this game. Look for Memphis’ guards to continue to play tough defense and for the big men of Memphis to control the paint and get the job done against a weaker Thunder front court.
Prediction: Memphis Wins Game 4