The Memphis Grizzlies don’t have a scorer as good as Kevin Durant is, but Marc Gasol is good enough to lead the way and take the lead in the Western Conference Semifinals, getting it done on both ends of the floor while getting just enough offensive help from Mike Conley and Tony Allen to remain unbeaten at home in the 2013 playoffs.
The numbers that show just how good Gasol was throughout game 3, leading to a 87-81 win over the struggling Oklahoma City Thunder, are best portrayed in the poor shooting of the Oklahoma City Thunder. When Gasol was on the floor (playing 37 minutes), the Thunder shot only 31.1% from the field. Without him? They were making 48.1% of their shots. Gasol was always there to stop driving forces through the lane, positioned perfectly on nearly every possession that went through his area.
He finished with 20 points (16 of them in the second half), also adding 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. The Grizzlies were 23 points per 100 possessions better than the Thunder with Gasol and 32.6 points per 100 possessions worse without him.
The Grizzlies don’t know how to win any other way. They’re not going to blow by opponents and win by 15-20 points. There’s not enough individual ability on this team to have those kind of scoring nights, while the Thunder, even without Westbrook, are simply a very good basketball team, although missing quite a lot of things to have them properly equipped to battle the Grizzlies.
We just stayed after it like we’ve done all year long. It’s not always pretty. Tonight wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty for us because we got the win. It was definitely a good feeling because we didn’t play the best Grizzlies’ basketball that we know we can play as a team.
But Zach Randolph was neutralized, shooting only 4-12 from the field, finishing with 8 points. Mike Conley wasn’t anything special – 14 points on 3-9 from the field, although he did add 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Tony Allen scored 14 points as well in one of his better offensive performances in the off-season. The Grizzlies got just about enough from their offense, but did most of the work with their defense, keeping the Thunder on only 36 points in the second half.
And there was also the clutch – while the Thunder made every possible mistake in their decision making and shooting during the final minutes, Marc Gasol sank two free throws with 1:03 left on the clock to finally give his team the lead. The Thunder kept on missing and making the wrong decisions, while Mike Conley hit four more free throws on four attempts to clinch the win for the team that’s played like the better one all throughout the series.
The Grizzlies did let the Thunder outplay them in certain areas of the game, but the Thunder aren’t about winning the small battles and grey areas. They’re about outscoring and outrunning opponents. Defense wins games, but offense is what this team is about. Tony Allen is doing a great job on Kevin Durant, while the Grizzlies are doing a great job as a team. It might not be pretty up to this point, but as long as they keep their cool in the final moments, they’ve got more advantages heading in to the final four games of the series.