Grizzlies-Thunder Game 2 Preview: Who can set the tone?

By Royce Young | NBA writer

Can the Thunder hold off the Grizzlies down 3-1?   (USATSI)
Can the Grizzlies slow down Kevin Durant this time? (USATSI)

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Previewing Game 2 of the Grizzlies-Thunder first-round series.

1. Where We Are: After 24 minutes, it looked as if the Thunder were going to bulldoze their way through the overwhelmed Grizzlies and make an opening Game 1 statement that was loud and clear.

But a 31-13 third quarter not just got the Grizzlies back in the game, but back in the series as well. In that first half, scoring was a chore for Memphis, almost as if making the ball go in the basket was something of a miracle. Their offense was a wreck as the Thunder swarmed and attacked them. A little halftime adjusting and the Grizzlies were able to impose their will, get back to basics of their ground-and-pound offense, and do their thing. Points started coming easy and as they returned the favor with rabid defense in the halfcourt on the other end, the game tightened.

There was a calculated risk in the comeback, though. Dave Joerger played his starters the entire third quarter, and even started the fourth with them. Eventually, the team just ran out of gas as Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant kept coming. The Thunder took Game 1 by 14 points, but at least it was obvious -- this won't be as easy as it might've seemed.

2. The Big Number: 2 of 11. The Grizzlies hit just two of their 11 3-point attempts in Game 1, and while that's not at all the name of their game, the inability to space the floor really clogged their offense at times. They scored 50 points in the paint, which is what they want to do, but not getting anything from Mike Miller -- three points on 1-of-6 shooting -- or Courtney Lee -- eight points but 0 of 0 from 3 -- meant the Thunder could crash down on Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

3. Key Adjustment: The Grizzlies need a good start. The Thunder notoriously can start fast because of the burst of energy Westbrook gives them from tipoff. After two minutes in Game 1, it was 8-0. Then it was 14-2. The Grizzlies aren't the kind of team that plays well from behind, because despite that third-quarter push, they very much prefer to set their own tone and control the tempo of the game.

4. The Big Story: Which half of basketball told the real story? Was it the first half where the Thunder ambushed Memphis and looked dominant? Or was it the second where the Grizzlies imposed their style? These teams have traditionally played painfully close games, so it would seem the blowout nature of the first half was an aberration, but the Thunder do have more talent and ability, no question. It's a matter of if the Grizzlies can counter that with their methodical, grinding style and take Westbrook and Durant out of their games.

5. The Facts: 8:00 p.m. ET. Nick Calathes is out for Memphis because of a suspension, but Tayshaun Prince, who sat the second half of Game 1 with an illness, is expected to be back in the starting five.

 
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