The Oklahoma City Thunder took the first game if their playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies with relative ease. They bolted out of the gate, took a commanding 1-0 lead and things seemed to be taking the correct course. The Grizzlies had other ideas and took the next two games, including one at Chesapeake Arena – one of the toughest tasks in basketball.
With their backs to the wall, the Thunder relied on Reggie Jackson to find his form at the right time and he came through in a massive way. 32 points, 9 rebounds and a best on court performance. Now, with the Thunder back at home for Game 5, we take a look at three keys to the game for the Thunder to earn a victory and a 3- 2 lead.
1. Move the basketball.
The Memphis Grizzlies won’t all of a sudden roll over and go away from their “grit and grind” style – they will continue to battle believing in the system that has gotten them this far. They will be pleased with the efforts they have given to slow down Thunder superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and will look to do the same.
The Oklahoma City Thunder can overcome the lock down defensive efforts by moving the basketball. In the two losses, the Thunder have played right into the Grizzlies hands, going to Westbrook and Durant frequently with little assistance and ball movement. It has allowed the defensive minded Grizz to focus in on their task with little worry of other players beating them. That needs to change.
Durant and Westbrook need to continue to be aggressive and take their shots and opportunities, but if they can move the ball and get it through the hands of their teammates, it will keep the Grizzlies defenders on edge, moving and render them less effective. Serge Ibaka, Caron Butler and Reggie Jackson are huge parts of this team and utilizing them is a major key to limiting the effectiveness of the Grizzlies and securing the win.
2. Defend the post / paint
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are a formidable front line tandem. They are both huge men, physically dominating and very skilled – and they have caused the Thunder a number of headaches. Limiting the effectiveness of these two will go a long way to determining the result in Game 5.
Outside of the Grizzlies frontcourt duo, Mike Conley remains an issue for OKC. He has been able to get to the basket and create for himself and others without much resistance. It is pretty clear that Thabo Sefolosha is having a tough time guarding him and Westbrook hasn’t been as effective as the Thunder would have liked – but they have to do something. Reggie Jackson was very solid against him in Game 4 and might be asked to perform that role again.
If the Thunder lose the battle inside, they potentially lose this game – that is how important it is. Nick Collison and Steve Adams have to be ready to go when Kendrick Perkins needs a breather, and Serge Ibaka has to continue to rebound, alter shots and get a hand in the face of the Memphis mid-range game.
3. Limit the number of turnovers
The Memphis Grizzlies don’t want their games to become a shootout. They prefer slow and steady games, with minimal possessions and a low score. They are not built with the same offensive firepower so limiting their opponents is their desire. Turning the ball over plays right into their gameplan. It limits the number of opportunities the Thunder have to score and it gives the Grizzlies more time in control of the game.
On the flip side of that coin, the Thunder want to score as much and as often as possible. When you have the games best scorer playing small forward and a superstar point guard who loves to fill it up – it seems a solid option. In order to get the game score up over 100+ points, the Thunder need to control the basketball and not have too many empty possessions.
Not only will it make the Grizzlies have to defend more often, it also gives the Thunder a better chance of running up the score and making it hard for Memphis to match. The Thunder will need to play within themselves and their system and be careful with the basketball. If they can manage to keep the turnover count low (and force some of their own on the defensive end) they might just grab the Game 5 win.
So, there you have it. What are your thoughts?
The Memphis Grizzlies won’t hand over control of this series without a fight. The Thunder in front of a home crowd are going to need to play their very best basketball to grab the win. This is playoff basketball at its best. THUNDER UP!
Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder