Blog Entry

Playoff Fix: Thunder, Grizzlies tangle in Game 7

Posted on: May 14, 2011 8:13 pm
Edited on: May 14, 2011 8:50 pm
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies face off in the first Game 7 of the 2010-2011 NBA Playoffs. Posted by Ben Golliver.


One Big Thing: More than any other series, the Thunder-Grizzlies one has been about giant swings in momentum, emotion and energy. After an exhausting triple overtime in Game 4, the Thunder ran the Grizzlies out of the building in Game 5. In Game 6, the Thunder collapsed after halftime, looking out-of-sync and lethargic as the Grizzlies put the hammer down. Game 7, then, is simply about who has more left in the tank. With home-court advantage and an edge in overall talent, that should be the Thunder. 

The X-Factor: Thunder forward Kevin Durant, the league's best and most consistent scorer, sure picked a bad night to have his worst performance of the season. His season-low 11 points in Game 6 was troubling because he appeared openly frustrated -- both by the aggressive Memphis defense he's been facing and with teammate Russell Westbrook's decision-making.

Durant was sensational in closing out the Denver Nuggets in the first round, and an approximation of that performance should be enough to send the Thunder through to the Western Conference finals. If he no-shows again, though, Oklahoma City will find itself in a situation where Westbrook feels like he has to carry the entire burden. That's never a good thing. There are no excuses in a Game 7. Coexisting with Westbrook, the harassing defense and fatigue must become non-factors. Durant is staring at a legacy-impacting game and he needs to step up. 

The Adjustment: Before Game 6, I noted that Memphis needed to get back to what it does best: force-feeding Zach Randolph. It was better for the Grizzlies to go down doing what they do well than to go down doing what they do poorly. The flip is now true for Oklahoma City. If they're going to get eliminated from these playoffs, they need to force someone (anyone!) besides Randolph to send them packing.

Oklahoma City must double Zach Randolph early and often. It doesn't have to occur on every touch but it needs to happen a lot more than it did in Game 6, when Randolph went off for 30 points and 13 rebounds in 40 minutes. Yes, Nick Collison and company have done an excellent job handling Randolph in this series and they've gone above and beyond in doing their best to neutralize him on the glass. But Memphis simply lacks the floor-spacers to make the Thunder pay for over-committing to Randolph. If nothing else, daring Mike Conley to shoot at every turn would be a significantly better strategy than letting Randolph work one-on-one. Conley has shot just 9-for-40 in the last three games combined, including just 3-12 from downtown. 

The Sticking Point: Westbrook has become a lightning rod for criticism in this series thanks to his shot-jacking (17.8 field goal attempts per game), his turnovers (3.7 per game) and the Thunder's stagnation during critical late-game stretches that has produced a lot of one-on-one play from Westbrook and a lot of standing around from Durant. In the big picture, that Westbrook has already accomplished so much so early in his career is remarkable.

But this is not the time for Westbrook's supporters to be preaching patience, lest an opportunity be lost. Despite their youth, Oklahoma City is just five wins away from the NBA Finals and, when they're clicking on offense, they have the potential to be a legit title contender right now. Game 7 should be a good window into whether Westbrook and company are happy with what they've accomplished or are motivated enough to make some adjustments (better ball movement late in games, better shot selection, a bit more care with the ball when things break down in the halfcourt) so that they can move on to the next step.

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: May 15, 2011 3:17 pm

Durant needs to get in the paint.

"both by the aggressive Memphis defense he's been facing and with teammate 's decision-making. "

Westbrook has been a huge ballhog all series long.  However, in game 6 he was blowing past guys and getting great shots right at the rim.  I have no problem with that.  He only really took 1 or 2 bad shots that game.

Durant was settling for jumpers too easily.  Granted, Battier is a great defender, but Durant rarely even attempted to drive, or cut to the rim, or curl off a screen for a 12-15 foot jumper.  He just stood still on the perimeter with his hand up or cut outward off screens to get the ball.  And when he got it and faced his man, he just faced him up and then launched a 20+ footer every time.  No jab steps, no step-back jumpers, nothing.  He made 0 use of his quickness in 1 on 1 situations all game long.

Since: May 5, 2011
Posted on: May 15, 2011 3:10 pm

Playoff Fix: Thunder, Grizzlies tangle in Game 7

As a Mavs fan, I'm pulling for OKC to win game 7, but I think Memphis will prove to be too much for OKC.  OKC is a team of the future, but won't find a way to get it done today.  They will be a force for years to come as the Mavs and Spurs are getting too old and the Lakers are on the decline.  This is the Mavs year!

Since: Jan 24, 2007
Posted on: May 15, 2011 1:41 pm

Golliver-OKC Homer?

No mention of Rudy Gay not being on the floor for the Grizzlies? This series would already be over if Gay was there. I like the Grizzlies in game 7-Grind over flash and style. Perkins is a BUST-both Gasol and Randolph have abused him. Collison is a joke as a  post player and I like Game 7 for ZBO to take over game.

Since: Oct 6, 2006
Posted on: May 15, 2011 1:40 pm

Playoff Fix: Thunder, Grizzlies tangle in Game 7

This is a good analysis but I wish the author would give the Grizzlies a little more credit. From the gist of the article, I feel that Ben is saying the Thunders should have won this series already. Basically saying the only reason why they hadn't is that Durant is having a couple of off nights.

This isn't the same Grizzly team that started the season, this is a far better team that I feel if they started the season with the players now, they more than likely would have been 4th or 5th seeded.

I think the Thunders do have the edge, albet, a slight edge over the Grizzlies, but not enough that if the Grizzlies win, it would be a complete stunner. 

Its going to be a great game, both teams are gonna go all out this time and give everything they got. 


Since: May 4, 2011
Posted on: May 15, 2011 1:13 pm

Playoff Fix: Thunder, Grizzlies tangle in Game 7

sman2011 they shoot more ft's because their the best players on the floor and no one can gaurd them when they attack the basket. The great players get to the line, Durant, Rose, Howard, Kobe. It's a reason all of the players I just mentioned are amoung leauge leaders in ft attempts and all are either 1st or 2nd all NBA.

Since: May 4, 2011
Posted on: May 15, 2011 1:07 pm

Playoff Fix: Thunder, Grizzlies tangle in Game 7

Good analysis, the Thunder have got to get more player and ball movement in their half court offense and it wouldn't hurt to push the ball get some early offense, Westbrook is almost unstopable in transition, Durant could get some good looks too. Defensively double Z-Bo make him get rid of the ball and trust your rotations to the shooters. The Grizzlies need to pound it inside even if they double re-post Zach he has some of the quickest flip shots when he has good position under the basket. By feeding Zach it will make it easier for everyone else, they'll get good looks and easy shots against a scrambling defense. With the Thunder having to rotate Zach will be a beast on the offensive glass. Defensively stick to Durant like they have been take away that 1st pass and force them into late clock situations, this is where Westbrook struggles. They must limit transition oppurtunities and find Durant in transition you can't give him open looks. It's a battle of wills now they know what they have to do, what team will impose their gameplan on the other. I think the Thunder pull this one out, riding the shoulders of their superstar Durant. Should be a great game. 

Since: Dec 19, 2010
Posted on: May 15, 2011 12:58 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Mar 6, 2011
Posted on: May 15, 2011 12:12 am

Playoff Fix: Thunder, Grizzlies tangle in Game 7

Pretty good analysis. One thing though, Conley may have shot poorly the last two games, but he hasnst lost control of the offense. He hasnt turned it over much either. He gets little love from the sports press and Im not sure why. In truth he has been an important cog in the Memphis machine and its why Hollins asked the team to give him an extension on his contract. He's invaluable, actually. Randolph, its true, is the go-to guy. And he has been epic. But OJ Mayo was a big factor in game six. FOUR steals ! And sixteen points. Mayo opens it up for the Griz, and they dont have to have conley do the shooting. Also, Battier has been huge on defense. Part of Durant's frustration is because of Battier. Tony Allen is the enforcer, but Battier has been even more important. The other key is marc gasol, which is obvious I guess. If Gasol can be aggressive......just attack, even if he isnt hitting, it opens up things for Mayo and Randolph. Arthur looked good. For OKC.....its all about Westbrook. If he plays smart, they are supposed to win. But he hasnt done that yet.

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