The next series to examine the the Thunder vs. Grizzlies. This is a good one as the Thunder are known for their athleticism, speed, and scoring while the Grizz are known for punishing opponents down low and defending teams to death. The Thunder should win this one, but it won’t be easy. So far they have split the first two games of the series, after the Grizzlies stole the first game in OKC.
The key for the Grizzlies is pretty simple, win the battle down-low, like always. Featuring two top big men who complement each other perfectly, the Grizzlies should give the Thunder nightmares in the paint. After early season knee problems, former DPOY Marc Gasol is rounding into form averaging 16 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and 5.5 apg so far in the series. By himself he’s a problem. Zbo (Zach Randolph) is a bigger one, averaging 23/8.5/2.5 and forever agitating fellow tough guy Kendrick Perkins. Mike Conley has become a terrific point guard as well, who averaged 17 and 6 this season. The problem for Memphis is that points are just too hard to come by for this team. The Grizzlies finished dead last in the NBA in made 3 pointers/game this season, and fourth to last in scoring. If you’re relying on Mike Miller at this stage of his career, or Quincy Pondexter, to come in games and make enough threes to keep pace with the Thunder, you probably won’t win the series.
The Thunder on the other hand, finished 5th in the NBA in scoring. There’s no need to discuss their scorers in too much depth, because we all know Kevin Durant is the greatest scorer the league has seen in some time and Russell Westbrook when healthy (I’ll get to that) is as explosive as they come. (I attached a link for a video of Durant below that should do all the talking). I was really impressed with the growth of some of the Thunder’s young players this year, specifically Reggie Jackson. The young point guard averaged 13 and 4, and handled the increased workload impressively when Westbrook missed time. Westbrook’s recent injury history is troubling for sure, and the Thunder will need him to be at 100% relentlessly attacking defenses like only he can if they plan to win a title. For now, the Thunder’s explosive scoring should be too much for the Grizzlies to handle.