Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies begin their second round series on Sunday afternoon. The Thunder is 6-point home favorites over the Grizzlies with the over/under point total set at 197.
The Memphis Grizzlies’ round one performance may seem like a shock to the casual observer, but when you look at the strength of the Western Conference it’s not as big of an upset as it appears. The Grizzlies weren’t on mainstream TV the bulk of the year so they managed to fly under the radar a bit, but this is a team that overcame the injury of leading scorer Rudy Gay only to become a stronger defensive team with the addition of Shane Battier and the emergence of Tony Allen. Memphis now finds themselves in a second straight series against opponents they matched up quite well with during the regular season. The keys to the Grizzlies’ opening round series win were the play of Zach Randolph and a pestering defense that took a once potent Spurs offense out of rhythm with ease. Randolph will have a much tougher challenge this series with Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka to contend with in the paint. The Spurs simply weren’t physical down low. The Grizzlies defense should still find success though, although Shane Battier or Tony Allen probably can’t slow down Kevin Durant, which is the biggest challenge. Simply put, the Grizzlies’ strengths will be muted a bit in this particular matchup.
The Oklahoma City Thunder made pretty short work of a Denver Nuggets team who made an aggressive push to close the season after dealing away Carmelo Anthony. While Russell Westbrook experienced mixed results, often falling victim to “over-shooting”, Kevin Durant looked like every ounce of the MVP-caliber superstar he is, powering his team to a come from behind victory to close the series in game five. Serge Ibaka has evolved into a block machine to shore up an intimidating inside presence anchored by prized acquisition Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder has their own defensive specialist on the perimeter in Thabo Sefolosha as well. The Thunder will present a new and interesting challenge to this Grizzlies defense as they’re able to run the court and get out in transition after a miss or steal, something that wasn’t really part of the aged Spurs’ gamelan. Home court advantage should be very influential in this series as well as the Thunder managed to protect their home court in all three games in the opening round, even coming from behind in two occasions.
The Thunder and Grizzlies met four times during the regular season, with the Grizzlies winning the series 3-1. Each team scored 100 or more points in all of the four games. For that reason, I will be taking the over 197 points here.