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Mike Conley outshines Kevin Durant as Grizzlies take Game 2 from the Thunder

May 8, 2013, 1:50 AM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Two Getty Images

There were multiple areas that the Grizzlies needed to focus on in terms of adjustments heading into Game 2 against the Thunder. The one they needed the most was made, in the form of point guard Mike Conley returning to, and then exceeding the stellar form he displayed for much of the second half of the season.

Conley put in a dominant all-around performance, and finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists in leading the Grizzlies to a 99-93 victory to steal the home court advantage in this series.

Game 3 is in Memphis on Saturday.

One of the keys for the Grizzlies in their surge into the playoffs and then through their first round takedown of the Clippers has been the play of Conley, who elevated his averages in every major statistical category once the postseason began. He was largely absent in Game 1, and in addition to his 13 point, three assist, two turnover performance on 5-of-15 shooting in that one doing his team no favors, the floor presence he normally brings in leading his team’s offense simply wasn’t there.

Things changed dramatically for Conley in Game 2, as he attacked with dribble penetration to force the action. Instead of taking what the Thunder were willing to give, he took what his team needed from them in order to distribute the ball and get a balanced scoring attack from his teammates.

Conley’s game was so special that we haven’t even mentioned Kevin Durant yet, who controlled the game offensively for his team and did everything he could to drag them to victory. Durant finished with 36 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists, and was essentially unstoppable for long stretches of this game.

But without Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are going to need multiple players step up when facing a Grizzlies team that’s as focused and engaged as they were in this one. Derek Fisher provided an offensive spark off the bench with 19 points in a strong outing, but the Game 1 scoring boost of Kevin Martin disappeared almost entirely. Martin finished just 2-of-11 from the field for six points, after pouring in 25 points in the first game of the series.

Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka chipped in 10 and 11 points respectively, but the points came sporadically, and neither was considered a consistent threat by the Grizzlies’ defense.

Memphis killed the Thunder in some important statistical categories, outrebounding them by eight total, with the difference coming entirely on the offensive glass. It helped the Grizzlies outscore their opponent by 17 in second chance points, and by 20 in points in the paint.

The Grizzlies played their game for most of the night, and while Conley hit two huge shots with under two minutes to play to help his team pull away, Memphis swarmed on Durant defensively late to ensure they wouldn’t see a replay of the way things ended for them in Game 1.

As great as Durant was all game long, he was 0-for-3 with a turnover in the game’s final 3:10, thanks to the Grizzlies’ team effort on him defensively with the game on the line.

The good news for the Thunder is that this was anybody’s game with under three minutes to play, despite the Grizzlies’ statistical edge. The bad news, however, is that Durant can’t really be expected to do much more than he did in this one. If the Thunder can’t find a way to get consistent production out of a couple of other guys to aid Durant’s effort, or, at the very least, make sure to limit the Grizzlies’ efforts on the boards, they could be in serious trouble heading back to Memphis.

  1. rickyspanish - May 8, 2013 at 2:52 AM

    How many stupid plays can Perkins make without Brooks doing something?

    • eventhorizon04 - May 8, 2013 at 3:28 AM

      Honestly, who knows?

      Last year, in the Finals, Perkins literally had no way to contribute. He couldn’t guard anyone when the Heat went small because he’s at a huge footspeed disadvantage compared to both Chris Bosh and LeBron James, and he couldn’t exploit his size advantage on offense since he doesn’t have a well-developed post-game. Yet, Brooks stuck with him throughout the series, even as it became obvious that OKC matched up better against the Heat when they went small with Ibaka or Collison at center.

      In this series, Perkins has done an okay job while guarding Marc Gasol, but he’s been outworked for rebounds, turned over the ball multiple times, and blew multiple layups…yet he was still on the court late in the fourth quarter (to his credit, he did hit a couple of big free throws). So I don’t know – Brooks seems immune to any arguments that Perkins’ defensive contributions are outweighed by him being a liability on offense.

      • Mr. Wright 212 - May 8, 2013 at 3:46 AM

        That last turnover he committed was mind boggling. Gasol has been taking him to school on both ends, however. Not that this is anything to be ashamed of, as he is looking McHale-ish out there in these playoffs.

      • llfreedman - May 8, 2013 at 10:49 AM

        It’s just shocking Nick Collison doesn’t get more minutes. I know he had foul trouble last night, but honestly Collison should be the starter getting 30-35 minutes. I feel bad for Perkins because he seems to play with intensity- he just simply doesn’t have the skills or speed to compete. This is the ONE match-up where you’d think Perkins would be perfect, but alas he just can’t do it anymore. I used to think Perkins just was semi outdated because the league is moving to smaller spread line-ups, but now I realize he just doesn’t have it anymore.

    • spthegr8 - May 8, 2013 at 8:31 AM

      EVERYBODY better keep a close eye on the Grizz. With Z-Bo and Gasol controlling the paint. They will give you EVERYTHING you want & more!! Don’t be surprised if you see them in the Finals!!!

  2. divan22 - May 8, 2013 at 2:58 AM

    “Mike Conley outshines Kevin Durant”

    Bahahaha FALSE.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - May 8, 2013 at 3:39 AM

      He did tonight.

      We adults celebrate efforts (including two huge shots by Conley who OUTSHONE Durant) that result in wins, not highlight reel plays that end in a loss.

  3. thekingdave - May 8, 2013 at 3:08 AM

    One of the stupidest things that was beaten into the ground after the Harden trade was that he disappears too often. That all was well because Kevin Martin did what he could do. Well, if you thought Harden disappeared, I hope you’re enjoying K-Mart no heart. The guy catches and shoots nothing more. Couldn’t be the guy in Houston, can’t even be a consistent second option playing next to one of the elite scorers in the NBA.

    • eventhorizon04 - May 8, 2013 at 3:32 AM

      A lot of people have drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant playing without Westbrook to LeBron playing in Cleveland.

      After all, Durant has been putting up a LeBron-like stat line of 30+ points, 8+ rebounds, and 7+ assists since Westbrook’s injury. To go along with that, I’d argue that Kevin Martin = Mo Williams. By that, I mean Martin is an offensively talented guard who is widely inconsistent game-to-game: He could score 25 points or could score 7 points in any given game.

      I think Durant is going to get his 30 points one way or another, so whether or not Kevin Martin shows up for 4 games will determine if OKC makes it to the Western Conference Finals.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - May 8, 2013 at 3:45 AM

      I said at the time of the trade that they would be fine during the regular season, with the randomness of each game and on-the-fly style of game preparation, but everyone knows the book on Martin. There’s nine years of film. It was apparent, even if Russ had not been injured, that they were going to miss Harden dearly, the deeper they went into the playoffs for the very reason you mentioned.

      Sure, Harden has choked royally in back to back playoff series now (last year’s Finals, and downright horrid in five of the six games down the stretch of games vs. OKC this year), but his style of play is necessary to offset their complete inability to score regularly in the paint. Martin didn’t step foot in the paint until an open layup in the 2nd half tonight. That makes things way too difficult for Durant, ESPECIALLY with Westbrook out.

  4. Mr. Wright 212 - May 8, 2013 at 3:37 AM

    Two clutch shots by Conley late. Huge.

    • rickyspanish - May 8, 2013 at 4:20 AM

      Mr Wright, you are laying down the truth tonight! Conley may not have had the numbers Durant did, but he did come through at the end of a close game. Is it me or does Conley always look happy?

      • theghostofwillisreed - May 8, 2013 at 8:04 AM

        he should because he’s putting everyone on notice that in terms of point guard play, he’s not taking a back seat to anyone anymore. this is his time to shine now and he’s showing it.

  5. mungman69 - May 8, 2013 at 7:02 AM

    Memphis looks good. The Thunder don’t have Westbrook and they traded Hardin. OKC is dead.

  6. cj1403 - May 8, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    @Mr. Wright you’re hitting the nail on the head!

  7. drago2012 - May 8, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    OKC is a jump shooting team. Durant is a great player, but he is only one of FIVE. Ibaka is shot blocker and he has no game. The rest of the team does not deserve any mention. Memphis will grind them into the ground by game six.

  8. ajonesmc931 - May 8, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    Grizz WILL represent west in finals, write it down

  9. yousuxxors - May 8, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    I thought the griz would give them trouble even with Westbrook.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - May 8, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      I did, also.

  10. phillyphil005 - May 8, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Westbrook would change everything if he was playing.

    Conley wouldn’t get anything close to what he had lastnight, and Durant would actually get some help on offense.

    On another note…I will enjoy a Grizz/Heat finals…Memphis definitely has a chance with that frontline.

    They are the last team Miami wants to play.

  11. loungefly74 - May 8, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    would love to see the Grizz move on to the next round. Mike Conley making OSU proud!

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