Oklahoma City Thunder vs Memphis Grizzlies – First Round Playoffs Series – (Series tied at 1-1 with Game 3 at Memphis)
Game 1 – Oklahoma City Thunder (100) defeated Memphis Grizzlies(86)
Game 2 – Oklahoma City Thunder (105) defeated by Memphis Grizzlies (111) in overtime
Game 3 Preview
The Oklahoma City Thunder have had a couple of days off to rue their performance in Game 2. In front of a home crowd, the Thunder came out of the blocks slowly and while they worked their way back into the game, even forcing overtime, they never quite got their noses far enough ahead to secure the win, allowing Memphis to grab the win and the momentum as they now head home for a couple of games. It wasn’t all negative for the Thunder though who received another terrific performance from Kevin Durant and solid support from Russell Westbrook.
It is rare that a team like the Memphis Grizzlies will put together that sort of offensive performance. They were ranked 16th overall during the regular season offensive efficiency, yet managed to shoot the lights out from the floor, the free throw line and behind the arc. They cannot bank on another performance like that though, because history with them shows, that they are more in their element when grinding out low scoring affairs rather than entering into a shoot-out.
As sluggish as the Thunder were, after their initial slow start, they did show a lot of poise and effort, but were just outplayed – especially inside. Look for that to be a focal point of the Thunder’s training sessions ahead of Game 3 in Memphis. The Thunder simply need to bring the effort and energy that saw them take a huge lead in the first game before cruising to a 14 point win. They need to pressure the ball handler, get in the passing lanes and limit the effectiveness of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol on the inside. Tony Allen and Beno Udrih are not going to shoot 9-12 again and when that falls through, the Thunder are back on track to take the win.
The Thunder have far too much depth for the Memphis Grizzlies, but depth and talent on the bench is no good unless it performs when it plays. Reggie Jackson can’t really play much worse and Caron Butler has proven over time that he can get the job done, but both were lacking in the game 2 loss. They, along with Fisher, Collison and hopefully Steve Adams will be given more opportunity and they really have to stand up and be counted. Taking the pressure off Durant and Westbrook is only part of their role, the other is to continue the intense pressure on both ends of the floor and they were unable to do that in their last outing. Bank on Reggie Jackson and Caron Butler especially to take this personally and deliver a far better performance in Game 3.
We know what we are going to get with Kevin Durant and while Tony Allen and the rest of the Memphis Grizzlies are doing everything in their power to slow down the four time scoring champion, he is still going to get his. Westbrook will always be in the mix too, pushing the tempo and generally creating havoc, but what we need to see is a bit of balance between the two and a better understanding of making the right basketball play. They did this impeccably in Game 1 and nabbed a win because of it. Replicate that performance and the Thunder can take a 2-1 lead.
The Memphis Grizzlies stole that last game in Oklahoma City and with it they stole momentum. Now, they are back at home where they have won their past 14 games and the ask is even tougher for the Thunder. However, the Thunder tend to really switch on and bring the intensity with their backs against the wall. They will need to do this from the opening tip until the final buzzer if they want the upper hand and a lead in this series. They can ill-afford to start slowly and try to mount a comeback in the Grizzlies building. Look for that fire and burn to spark the Thunder into action and into a Game 3 victory. Thunder 102, Memphis 90.
Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder