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NBA Playoffs: The Grizzlies win Game 1

May 1, 2011, 4:29 PM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One Getty Images

The legend of the 2011 Memphis Grizzlies continues to grow. Days after shocking the Spurs at home in Game 1 of the first round, the 8-seeded Grizzlies started their conference semifinal series off on a high note by taking it to the Oklahoma City Thunder, winning by a final score of 114-101.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook may be the two best offensive players in this series on paper, but it was Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph who ended up stealing the show on Sunday afternoon. Memphis’ towering big men absolutely dominated the Thunder inside; Randolph was deadly around the basket and from the baseline on his way to 34 points and 10 rebounds, and Marc Gasol managed to score 20 points on only 11 shots thanks to some hard-nosed baskets inside and a handful of jumpers from the top of the key. The Kendrick Perkins trade was supposed to keep Oklahoma City’s interior defense from getting abused like it was on Sunday, but nobody told the Grizzlies. Memphis outscored the Thunder 52-38 in the painted area, and managed to pull down 17 offensive rebounds as well.

On defense, the Grizzlies weren’t really able to slow down Kevin Durant (who is?), but they did manage to turn Russell Westbrook into a volume shooter. Westbrook finished the game with 29 points and 6 assists, but he needed 23 shots and 12 free throws to get his points, and committed seven turnovers over the course of the game. Westbrook’s shaky jump shot actually wasn’t the main reason for his struggles on Sunday — he was 4-8 on shots from outside the paint, but just 5-15 on forays to the basket.

That kind of shooting performance from Westbrook actually isn’t that shocking –During his rookie season, Westbrook was a terrible finisher at the rim, and last year he made barely over half of his shots from inside the immediate basket area. Westbrook seemed to have turned things around this season, and made 60% of his shots at the rim during the regular season, but the Grizzlies were able to get Westbrook’s old demons to re-emerge. With Westbrook playing a high-usage, low-efficiency game, the rest of the Thunder weren’t able to step up offensively. Serge Ibaka was the only other Thunder player to score in double digits, and key 6th man James Harden only managed to put in five points off the bench.

The Thunder have the talent and chemistry to recover from this, but they now find themselves in a 0-1 hole thanks to their two Achilles heels: poor interior defense and Westbrook’s tendency to dominate the ball and waste possessions. Perkins was brought in to solve the former problem, and Westbrook’s maturation has made the latter somewhat less of an issue, but both problems were clearly evident in Game 1. If Oklahoma City can slow down Memphis’ twin towers and get Westbrook running the offense more smoothly, they should be able to get back on track in a hurry. If they can’t, the Grizzlies’ improbable playoff run may not be ending anytime soon.

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  1. therookie773 - May 1, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    Who edits these articles? There are always tons of grammatical and spelling errors. Weeks after shocking the spurs? ( was couple days ago) the Memphis big men towering over the lakers interior? The quality of these articles are absolute garbage.

    • ocgunslinger - May 1, 2011 at 6:19 PM

      I guess Krolik reads the comments and then corrects himself.

      • aboogy123456 - May 2, 2011 at 8:21 AM

        The reason there are so many grammatical errors is that Kurt Helin writes so many of them. At least Krolik actually will correct himself and try to write well.

  2. swisspro - May 1, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    Westbrook need to remember who team he is on an facilitate the ball threw KEVIN DURANT who is the leader of the team.its one thing to take good shots but if you’re not fishing that’s a problem and a way to deflate an offense he needs to step back a run the point and find the open guy AKA DURANT. When they run the ball threw KD they will win in 7…

    SWISSPRO word to Westbrook step back relax and stop trying to take the game one your shoulders in game one. pass the ball to the man Who has the key to the city and Take a W.

  3. allball23 - May 1, 2011 at 9:25 PM

    Westbrook is a big key to the series he has to play better by finishing at the rim perkins has to earn his money by taking care of the glass

  4. chitownbulls - May 1, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    So many in the sports world (ESPN especially) have such a love affair going on with Westbrook/Durant/OKC that they gave the Grizzlies NO CHANCE in this series. After watching them in the Spurs series, I knew they would be a handful no matter who they played. Reason number 1 is how quick their hands are and how they overplay the passing lanes… They’ve got to be one of the best teams in the nba in doing this… They can make even the best ball handlers choke up that ball. ZBo and the Grizzlies want that ball! It was an enjoyable game and this should be a good series!

  5. fouldwimmerlaik - May 2, 2011 at 2:01 AM

    Westbrook should stop putting on his head that he is the man. The Alpha Dog in that team is Durant. He tries to darn hard to show everyone that all it takes is for him to bring the Thunder to the Promise Land. Tsk, tsk, tsk…

  6. memphismiracle - May 2, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Another great game from the Grizzlies. Those of us in Memphis are almost a loss for words. Randolph was such a beast in that first game. We are just enjoying the ride while it lasts and loving every minute of it. OKC is a great team, but it was surprising to see them seem to take the Grizzlies for granted. I expect they will come out firing in the next game. GO GRIZZ!!

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