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Thunder-Grizzlies Game 3 Preview: To the Grindhouse

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

Can the Thunder stop the Grizzlies inside? (USATSI)
Can the Thunder stop the Grizzlies inside? (USATSI)

Previewing Saturday night's Game 3 of the NBA playoffs series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies.

1. Where We Are: The Memphis Grizzlies took away homecourt advantage from the Oklahoma City Thunder by stealing Game 2 in OKC. They clawed, they grabbed, they grinded, and they found a way to hustle a win away from the Thunder in a very Grizzlies fashion. Mike Conley completely took over in the second half and took advantage of a Thunder team that badly could have used Russell Westbrook to counteract what Conley was able to do. He had 19 points and eight rebounds in the second half and missed a triple-double by one assist. If he's able to give them this kind of production, the Grizzlies should start scouting the Spurs-Warriors series a little closer.

2. The Big Number: 50. 50 of the Grizzlies 99 points came in the paint, a dominating effort by the interior of Memphis. They made just 12 of their 43 shots outside of the restricted area, but managed to dominate inside with the 50-30 advantage in the paint. A lot of this had to do with the attacking by Mike Conley to get the ball inside and Marc Gasol who was great at balancing scoring inside and shooting the midrange jumper. The Thunder took only 17 shots in the restricted area and just couldn't work the ball into the paint against the Memphis defense.

3. Key Adjustment: Get the role players going for the Thunder. Kevin Durant has to do it all and that's to be expected. But the Thunder should also expect to have the role players step up to battle with him throughout the game. In Game 3, OKC will be facing an extremely hostile environment in the Grindhouse in Memphis. How are the role players going to respond? Will they need nearly 20 points from Derek Fisher? Will Kevin Martin finally show up? Will they get Serge Ibaka to play better? Durant is essentially playing point-forward on most possessions and these role players have to knock down shots. They start by moving off the ball and getting to the cracks in the defense. Then let the muscle memory on the jumper take over.

4. The Big Story: Does Kevin Durant finally know what it was like to be LeBron James? Durant has to do it all right now and without James Harden and Russell Westbrook by his side, he might have a better idea of what LeBron went through before he joined up in Miami with the super friends. This could be a great thing for Durant in the long-term. He'll have to learn how to attack in a way he never did before and it could help his all-around game accelerate into an even scarier territory. The nice thing for him is he won't have to leave to get help. Westbrook will be back next year and they could end up with a really nice piece either through a trade or the draft to be the third best player on the team. And with Durant's newfound refined game from learning how to do everything on his own, it could bolster an already ridiculous offensive attack.

5. The Facts: Tip at 5 ET. Russell Westbrook is still out for the playoffs.

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