The Grizzlies have given the Thunder and star players Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook fits throughout their first-round match up in the 2014 NBA playoffs, but the buck may stop here for Memphis.
The Grizzlies will be without their star forward Zach Randolph for the game Saturday night due to a suspension over punching Steven Adams in Game 6. Not only is Randolph out, but point guard Mike Conley will not be himself tonight due to playing through a hamstring injury. Both Randolph and Conley are big parts of the Memphis offense that already lacks potent weapons, so seeing those two out or not at full strength really hurts the Grizzlies’ chances to pull off the upset.
Players like Marc Gasol and Mike Miller are going to have to have a big impact in order for the Grizzlies to pull out the win. Gasol has been spectacular throughout the series for the Grizzlies, averaging 16.2 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game. Gasol has been able to score both in the paint and in the mid-range, and be effective shooting the ball for the Grizzlies. Where Gasol affects the offense that not too many people pay attention to is distributing the ball. Memphis loves to play Gasol at the high post and allow him to be the catalyst of the offense. If Gasol is open, he has the range and the touch to shoot the ball. If Gasol is drawing defenders, he has the size and the court vision to find a teammate open (not to mention his passing skills for a big man can only be matched by Joakim Noah in the entire NBA). Gasol will need to be effective in all areas of the game, including remaining the Grizzlies’ defensive anchor, if there is going to be an upset in Game 7.
As for Miller, his role has been defined for him many times before — shoot the three ball efficiently.
Miller is no stranger to shooting the three-point shot (career 40.9 percent shooter from deep), and it is that skill that is going to be key for the Grizzlies on offense. Memphis’ three-point shooting is not exactly the best, so the more shots Miller can hit from that range, the more everything opens up for Gasol, and other post players like Ed Davis and James Johnson, to get inside and take control in that area of the floor.
However, even if these two players for Memphis step up, Oklahoma City has too many weapons for the Grizzlies to overcome.
Durant and Westbrook found their offensive strides in Game 6, and they will not be looking to lose them again back at home in Game 7. Reggie Jackson has been big for the team all postseason, and Serge Ibaka tends to hit some crucial shots on his home court. All of these things spell disaster for the Grizzlies, who will be limited due to not being at full strength on both ends of the floor.
Memphis gave it a good run, but it is Oklahoma City’s time to finish this series strong and move on to the next round.
Prediction: Oklahoma City wins Game 7