Coming off four wins straight against the Clippers, the Grizzlies will try to carry their momentum into Oklahoma City. The Grizzlies may actually be the favorites to win this series as OKC is missing a crucial player in Russell Westbrook. The Thunder had a much harder time creating shots after losing Westbrook. The Grizzlies look more confident than they have ever been. This should be a fantastic series.
What OKC needs to do to win: Keep Memphis from getting second chance opportunities. Memphis plays so hungry and they love taking advantage of offensive rebounds. Ibaka, Durant, and Perkins need to be there to secure the missed shots and then push the ball. Extra chances for Memphis will be a killer if OKC allows that. Secondly, OKC cannot let Memphis bully them in the paint like the Grizzlies did against the Clippers. Perkins always welcomes contact but Ibaka needs to be physical as well. While Ibaka has the athletic edge over the Grizzlies’ bigs, he has a tendency to shy away from contact. Zach Randolph loves contact. Obviously, Durant needs a lot of help on offense. It’s going to be like LeBron on Cleveland. OKC will not win this series if they depend on Durant to do it all for them.
What Memphis needs to do to win: Memphis has a few huge matchup advantages. Those include Mike Conley vs. Reggie Jackson and Marc Gasol vs. Kendrick Perkins. They need to utilize those as much as possible. Marc Gasol is a very consistent close-up shooter. He will cause problems for OKC by taking Kendrick Perkins or Serge Ibaka away from the basket when OKC is on defense. Memphis absolutely needs to play slower than the Thunder prefer to play. So far, we haven’t seen much half-court production from OKC without Westbrook. When they do make a play, it usually involves Durant and even he is looking a bit uncomfortable in the half-court set. Finally, Memphis is an excellent team when they knock down their shots. Perimeter scoring can be a difficulty for this team at times. But they are extremely tough to beat when they consistently knock down shots.
Gasol and Randolph vs. Perkins and Ibaka: Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were nasty against the Clippers. They simply could not be contained. They clearly out-hustled and outmuscled the Clippers’ bigs. Kendrick Perkins needs to be as efficient as he was when he won a ring with Boston. Perkins doesn’t provide much value when he isn’t stopping players in the post. Gasol and Randolph both have smooth jumpers. We will often see them stretch the floor and take away Ibaka and Perkins from the post defense area.
Mike Conley vs. Reggie Jackson: Mike Conley challenged Chris Paul and actually played just as well as him in some games. There is no reason to think Conley won’t take Reggie Jackson to school. Jackson is a talented player but he needs to learn to play in big games. We’ll see if he can compete with Conley.
Kevin Durant vs. Memphis’ whole team: Memphis will be all over Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant needs to have an unbelievable series. Without his sidekick Westbrook, this lies in the hands of KD. Durant will get tired but he will have to push through. As great of a shooter as Durant is, he can’t settle for too many jumpers. He needs to attack the hoop and draw a lot of fouls. Look for Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince to be up in his grill.
Kevin Martin needs to step up: Kevin Martin is now OKC’s second best scorer. He will have really tough defenders on him but he can’t let that bother him. He needs to play his game and give Durant an extra hand. Martin is a very good scorer. Now, he just needs to assert himself to the max.
Jerryd Bayless could be an X-factor: Bayless has been great off the bench for the Grizzlies. Bayless really has the ability of a starter. Teams need to stick with him when he’s in the game because he can score very well.
Prediction: This series is extremely tough to predict. At first thought, Memphis has the better team and they definitely have more momentum. Can Durant carry the Thunder past this vicious Memphis squad? Hmmmmm……..
8 out of 10 people seem to like Memphis in this series. I’m a man that likes to go against the odds.
Thunder Win in Seven Games