The Oklahoma City Thunder don’t have their starting point guard or any kind of offensive system, but they do have Kevin Durant playing his best basketball. The Memphis Grizzlies are quite methodical on both ends of the floor, but lack that superstar who can take the game on his shoulders in the final minutes. Will it cost them a second consecutive time?
The Grizzlies did everything right in game 1 until the final moments, when Kevin Durant stepped up, along with Kevin Martin earlier in the fourth quarter, enjoying one big steal from Derek Fisher and that was the end of it. There are no adjustments with Scott Brooks. He simply plays his hot hand, which means giving the ball to Durant in the backcourt on 80% of the plays, and let him decide what’s good for his team.
Durant played 44 minutes in game 1, and is likely to play something similar, if not more, in game 2. The Grizzlies are throwing different looks at him, but are shy from trapping him at the moment, focused on denying outside shooting from Serge Ibaka, who was awful in the first game or giving anyone else a chance to get hot. Kevin Martin made the most of that one on one defense, driving to the basket or finding himself quite open when the second unit for the Grizzlies was on.
For Memphis, it begins with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, combining for 39 points and 20 rebounds, but it has to end with Mike Conley playing like he did against the Clippers. Playing Reggie Jackson doesn’t mean he can slack off defensively, or try things that are bit too complicated for his skill set offensively. He needs to play like he did against Chris Paul, even if he respects the man in front of him a little bit less – simple, aggressive, and most important focused.
Most importantly, give the best offensive threat the ball. Zach Randolph is almost impossible to stop in the post, but he also knows when to release the ball when things get a little bit too crowded. The Grizzlies had four possessions in that tragic final minute against the Thunder in game 1, without Randolph touching the ball. Game 2 is going to be just as close, an Randolph needs more touches when it matters the most.
Predictions – The Thunder have a bad head coach who has no plan except give the ball to Durant. As talented as he is, it was barely enough on a great day for him, and he can’t be this good all the time. The Grizzlies are the better team at the moment, and look likely to steal home advantage in this one.