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NBA Playoffs: Will Grizzlies, Thunder players have anything left?

May 11, 2011, 5:36 PM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook drives to the basket by Memphis Grizzlies Marc Gasol and Shane Battier in Memphis Reuters

Game 4 between the Grizzlies and Thunder was exhausting. For me, as a fan, sitting on a couch. I can’t imagine what it took out of the players.

And for a crucial Game 5 with the series tied 2-2, that is where the questions start — who is going to have the most energy? Mental and physical. Can Memphis rebound from that kind of disappointing loss where they could have almost sewn up the series? Which team gets enough quality bench play so the starters can rest without the game slipping away?

After that, it comes back to some familiar themes for both teams.

The Thunder keep building big leads then giving them back, and they need to hold on because they can’t keep executing this poorly at the end and expect to get wins. Russell Westbrook has taken all the blame for the stretches where he takes a lion’s share of the shots and Kevin Durant goes hungry, but Durant gets blame here, too. He stands around and becomes a spectator, he doesn’t use his screens well. The entire Thunder offense goes stagnant, so Westbrook takes on his defender (whom he can beat) and the offense goes stagnant.

One really good solution for that — more James Harden. He is better at setting up teammates when running the offense than Westbrook. Guys work harder off the ball for him because they think they might be rewarded.

For Memphis, it comes back to the paint — they can’t just kind of win the battle in inside, they have to dominate it. They have dominated it against Kendrick Perkins, whose strength is strength but he has been undone by the quickness of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. But Nick Collison is quicker and the Thunder are just better when he is on the floor. Look for a lot of Collison, and the Grizzlies need to counter that.

But it can’t just be all inside — the Thunder are pulling back the defense and packing the paint and Memphis must make them pay for that. Mike Conley had a rough Game 4 (2-for-12 shooting) and if he does that again on the road the Grizzlies will be in a hole. O.J. Mayo also must have a good game on the road.

Also, both teams love to get easy points in transition, if one team gets a healthy advantage in fast break points it will be hard for the opponent to make up.

Stick around and watch this game after the Heat game. But make sure you get comfortable, you could be at it for a while.

  1. trbowman - May 11, 2011 at 5:37 PM

    Horrible officiating in that Griz Thunder game. Grizz should have won in regulation. You win again Mr. Stern.

    • oumoonunit - May 11, 2011 at 6:58 PM

      Why would Stern want the Thunder to win. They are one of the smallest markets, and they had one of the lowest local T.V. viewerships in the NBA(bottom 5 in the league but still one ahead of Memphis). If any of that nonsense were true, neither OKC or Memphis would have made it out of the 1st round. Usually the b.s. NBA is rigged crap is about Stern getting the finals to big cites like LA, Boston, or New York. Give it a rest.

    • memphismiracle - May 11, 2011 at 8:04 PM

      What are you talking about? The Thunder got a lot of calls and so did the Grizzlies. Look at the fouls called and the free throws that were shot. Again, the hardest part about watching that game was that Westbrook couldn’t be stopped going to the rim. Couple that with our guys reaching in and slapping at him, he is going to get fouls called. That is the way the Thunder play. They lead the league in free throws attempted. Don’t blame the refs.

      • memphismiracle - May 11, 2011 at 8:18 PM

        That was supposed to be a reply to trbowman.

  2. dwighthowardisamazing - May 11, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    LET’S GO THUNDER!!!!!!!

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