Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies Game Two (Thunder Lead Series 1-0)
Game One Leftovers
Honestly, there wasn’t much to take from game one of this series. The Thunder isn’t likely to start the first half the way they did or play the third quarter as badly as they did and the Grizzlies aren’t likely to play the first half as bad as they did or dominate the Thunder like they did in the third. Things will probably be closer to the fourth quarter, where both teams got into a rhythm and it came down to who could execute on both ends of the floor better.
Allen vs. Durant
Tayshaun Prince lasted four whole minutes and then left due to an illness. In those four minutes, Kevin Durant pretty much had his way with him, and really any Memphis Grizzlies defender not named Tony Allen. Against Allen, Durant looked normal. Not exactly a surprise given Allen’s defensive reputation, but how will that last? Durant has been great at adjusting to defense and defenders this season. Going up against Allen isn’t exactly new territory for the NBA’s leading scorer and if the fourth quarter is any indication, Durant may’ve already decided how to approach Allen. Give him an extra day of tape study and practice, and it could be a long night for whomever steps up against KD.
The Bench Battle
The Grizzlies bench was brutal in game one. If not for Tony Allen, who was virtually a starter thanks to Prince’s early exit, they would’ve scored a combined 12 points. Don’t expect them to get much better. Mike Miller is obviously a three point threat, but he’s a liability defensively. Otherwise, the Grizzlies don’t exactly scare OKC with anyone coming off the bench. Memphis coach Dave Joeger has a tough choice to make: gas out his starters in the first three quarters or play his bench and hope for the best. In game one, he gassed his starters. In game two, he might use his bench more, and if that’s the case, expect Reggie Jackson and Caron Butler to be even better than they were in game one. I’d say Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones could have big games as well, but God forbid Scott Brooks give them playing time.
The Third Wheel
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are going to get theirs. When Serge Ibaka is getting his, that’s when OKC is at their most dangerous. Ibaka got his on Saturday. He finished with 17 points, missed only two shots, added four blocks, and changed a number of shots in the paint. Ibaka has to work harder on defense in this series given that he’ll likely be matched up against Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol at all times, but as long as his offensive game doesn’t suffer, OKC will be just fine.
Flipping A Switch
OKC didn’t exactly have a great finish to their season. They lost two of their last three games and barely squeeked by the Detroit Pistons in their one win. That didn’t matter on Saturday. It’s almost become cliche to say that “the NBA regular season doesn’t matter to a lot of teams” but it’s becoming quite true. For the Thunder, the regular season didn’t matter. It’s all about whether or not they win a title. Players on OKC realize that and probably went through the motions in the final week of a long regular season. So when the playoffs started on Saturday, OKC flipped the switch and we saw the result. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant aren’t going to allow their team to go through the motions at this point. The Thunder are in playoff mode, and as long as they stay healthy, that’s a scary thing.
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