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PBT NBA Playoff Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

May 4, 2013, 6:30 PM EDT

Tayshaun Prince, Kevin Durant

SEASON RECORDS

Memphis: 56-26, fifth seed in the West

OKC: 60-22, one seed in the West

PLAYOFF RECORDS

Memphis: Beat the Los Angeles Clippers 4-2

OKC: Beat the Houston Rockets 4-2

SEASON SERIES

Grizzlies took two of the three meetings.

KEY INJURIES

Russell Westbrook is out for the playoffs after undergoing surgery for a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession) – PLAYOFFS ONLY

Memphis: Offense 109.7 (2nd in the postseason), Defense 104.9 (11th in the postseason)

OKC: Offense 109.2 (3rd in the postseason), Defense 101.9 (8th in the postseason)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES:

The Thunder’s ability to get consistent scoring from players not named Kevin Durant: With the loss of Russell Westbrook at this late stage of the season, OKC is forced to adjust on the fly without their most explosive player, and the one who led the team in field goal attempts over the course of the season. Replacing what Westbrook gave the Thunder will be a tall task against a solid Grizzlies team that’s more than capable of locking down defensively at times, so the likes of Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson will need to provide reliable production from the guard spots for the Thunder to advance.

The continued brilliance of Mike Conley: The Grizzlies’ point guard has played as well as anyone in this postseason, and carved up the Clippers with averages of 17.3 points, 8.3 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game that were all better than his regular season averages. Conley was especially great in the closeout Game 6, finishing with 23 points on seven shots, after getting to the free throw line for a whopping 17 attempts.

There’s a reason that the Grizzlies offense, which was below average during the regular season, came to life against the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. Conley’s ability to have high assist, low turnover games has been key in his team’s surge on that end of the floor, and his ability to feed Zach Randolph in the post with perfectly-placed passes has helped his big man dominate for stretches inside.

Memphis is built on defense, certainly. But Conley is the key to bringing their offense to a respectable level that can actually make the Grizzlies a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.

Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins: These two didn’t have a great first round series against the Rockets, but the matchups are much more favorable in the second round against a Grizzlies team that relies heavily on its two bigs inside. Oklahoma City may be uniquely qualified to slow the Memphis frontcourt attack with both Ibaka and Perkins, as well as with Nick Collison off the bench.

OUTLOOK

The burden will be on Durant to carry the Thunder offensively in this series, and he’s more than capable of doing so. The problem is that Memphis has a strong wing defender in Tony Allen who can at least make Durant work for his points, and if the Grizzlies can force Durant into low shooting percentage games, while containing the rest of of the Thunder’s role players, it could be trouble for Oklahoma City.

The Grizzlies’ ability to play good team defense, along with their improved offense we’ve witnessed so far this postseason, should be enough to get them into the Conference finals.

PREDICTION

Grizzlies in six.

  1. kingbeason52 - May 4, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    Thunder better be ready…Gasol and Randolph are playing pretty good right now..

  2. ajonesmc931 - May 4, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    I can agree with grizz in 6

  3. kb2408 - May 4, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    Memphis just might come out of the West. The Spurs spanked my beloved LAKERS but I have a sneaking suspicion they’re not that good. As great as Timmy Duncan is, Z-Bo and Gasol are going to be hard to beat. The Grizz are a better team now with Prince than they were with Gay.

  4. saint1997 - May 4, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    Wow this Grizz team actually has a shot of making to the finals, not just the WCF! That’s pretty amazing for a team that everyone including this website crucified for the Gay trade

    • Kurt Helin - May 5, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      Do your research before you blast this site, please. My comment on the Gay trade in the post naming it as official:

      I like this move for Memphis — it saves them money — $5.8 million this season and $26.4 million over the course of Gay’s contract — getting them under the luxury tax line in future years. Plus it gives them a player in Prince that fits well for them as a replacement for Gay.

      DJ Foster wrote this in our main analysis post on the trade:

      As is, Memphis actually managed to get stronger up front and cut salary in their two deals, as they now sport the league’s best big man rotation with Randolph-Gasol-Arthur-Davis.

      • saint1997 - May 6, 2013 at 5:29 AM

        Okay I’m assuming you agree with me on the fact that people didn’t think this was a good trade though, right Kurt?

        “Remember when Memphis traded Rudy Gay, getting back Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis, and the consensus among television talking heads was this was going to set Memphis way back because they gave up all that shot creation?”
        “a lot of national pundits shook their head and said, “why would Memphis kill its title aspirations by trading its best player?”

        I mean even Coach Hollins believed that as well, saying “I like our team,” Hollins said, while appearing on local radio in Memphis. ”I like the way we’ve grown the last few years, our maturity, and I would certainly as a coach like to keep our team together and see where we go this year. If management decides after the season is over that they want to move somebody for whatever reason, we’ll deal with that. But in the middle of a season, as successful as we are, it would be a big letdown.”

        What I meant by that comment was that in particular the commenters had taken a real disliking to the trade. I apologise if it came across badly, but pull your head in mate it was hardly “blasting” your site it was merely an observation.

  5. lucifershuttlesworth - May 4, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    Zach is going to destroy Perkins, Conley will own Reggie Jackson/ Fisher and Durant will spend the summer trying to scrub the essence of Tony Allan off himself. The only thing that can save OKC in this one is the refs.

    • kavika6 - May 5, 2013 at 8:21 AM

      If that’s true OKC is doomed. Officiating has been quite favorable for Memphis so far in the playoffs.

  6. bifford - May 4, 2013 at 9:09 PM

    Memphis have to feel lucky right now.

  7. bucrightoff - May 4, 2013 at 10:37 PM

    Durant has his chance to get to show he’s worthy of being #1 instead of #2. Gonna have to play out of his mind for them to win this series.

  8. cj1403 - May 5, 2013 at 3:28 AM

    Durant: Get’s tired of being 2nd, finishes 4th.

  9. kanemoney - May 5, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    If Martin can average 20+ per game, I like the Thunder. He was lauded as a max player in Sac and Hou and he needs to step it up. It’s a contract year, so I expect him to.

    The thunder have really good big men which I think helps them with gasol and z-bo. The level of experience and coaching also favors the Thunder slightly.

    This is a tough one, but I like Durant in this one.

  10. roeski - May 6, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Memphis in 6 is a joke.

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