The Oklahoma City Thunder had their six-game winning streak snapped at home last night when the Memphis Grizzlies grinded out a 94-88 victory over them.
The Grizzlies played great defense on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, dominated the glass and didn’t turn the ball over. It was a formula for how to beat the team with the best record in the Western Conference.
It scared Thunder fans. The potential matchup with the Grizzlies if they are playing this way wouldn’t be a cake walk for Oklahoma City. The Thunder needed seven games last year in the playoffs to beat Memphis and it might be a similar story this year.
So who are the toughest potential playoff matchups for the Thunder right now?
Oklahoma City has been the clear-cut number one seed for some time now but there are some teams who have given them trouble and are looking better now with the playoffs right around the corner.
1. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are currently sitting at the second seed in the West and likely will end the regular season as that seed. San Antonio has beaten the Thunder the last two times the teams have played. They are deep and full of veterans and their discipline is their greatest advantage over the Thunder. Oklahoma City has superior talent but the Spurs have shown an ability to exploit the weaknesses of the Thunder. This series could go either way.
2. Dallas Mavericks
The defending champs are the ones who knocked out the Thunder last year in the playoffs. They did it with ease too. Dallas isn’t the same team they were last year but still are surprisingly one of the better defensive teams in the league. If any team is ready to go to another level once the playoffs begin it’s probably Dallas. The Mavericks also kind of have the Thunder’s number and aren’t concerned with playing in front of a hostile home crowd.
3. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have size, play great defense and don’t turn the ball over. They showed how to beat the Thunder last night but can they do it four times in a series? San Antonio and Dallas are definitely tier one in terms of the fear factor for the Thunder but Memphis is a tough matchup. Memphis makes it so Oklahoma City just doesn’t look comfortable when they play and that counts for something. If the Grizzlies can take Oklahoma City out of their game and have them revert to their old bad habit they’d have a chance of pulling off the upset.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have been hot lately and beat the Thunder once already this season. Oklahoma City got the best of them in their last meeting but the Clippers are still a tough matchup in some ways. With Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan they have athletes down low who can protect the rim against Durant and Westbrook. Chris Paul is the best pure point guard in the NBA and showed last year in the playoffs that he can take his game to another level.
5. Los Angeles Lakers
The Thunder made the Lakers look real bad last week beating them but there were moments early on when the Lakers exploited the Thunder defense. Los Angeles obviously has two of the best big men in the league in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. They can dominate together at times and did so in the first quarter last time these teams played. Oklahoma City plays better on offense when they go small but they may not be able to so much against the Lakers giving the Lakers a little bit of an edge at times.
No matter who the Thunder have to play they will be the favorites and should win the West. It’s not going to be easy though and they will have some tough matchups. As the standings read today, Oklahoma City would have to play Houston in the first round who split the season series with them, then take on the Clippers or Grizzlies, and finish off in the West Finals versus San Antonio, the Lakers or Dallas. And not to mention they’ll probably have the Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls waiting for them in the NBA Finals.