Memphis Comes Up Big, Forces Game 7

Steve O Speak

The Memphis Grizzlies were supposed to be a push over in these playoffs. They were a young team without their dynamic scorer Rudy Gay, and had a long history of losing. Yet now they dismantled the top seeded Spurs, and just forced at game 4 against 4th seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. No one really gave the Grizzlies a shot this postseason, but now they are one game away from their first Western Conference Finals.

It looked as though the Grizzlies run would end last night, as they were down by 10 at halftime, but Memphis battled back and ended up winning 95-83. The Grizzlies won in an all-around team effort led by Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo, who combined for 46 points. The Grizzlies played excellent defense, which stymied Kevin Durant for his worst playoff performance yet, 11 points on 3 of 14 shooting. Memphis really challenged the Thunder’s 3-point attempts, and they ended up just 4 of 25 from behind the arc.

Memphis also won the battle in the paint (46-38), matched Oklahoma City in rebounds, and just really controlled the tempo in the 2nd half. The Grizzlies also limited their turnovers, which had been a problem earlier in the series.

The Thunder will need to make quick adjustments for Sunday as they look to avoid blowing their advantage in this series. Oklahoma City needs to find a way to get Durant more open looks, as he was constantly double-teamed last night. While Westbrook and Harden had nice nights, they either need to score more, or add a 3rd option to make the Grizzlies pay for the attention that Durant receives. Both Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka need to produce more on offense, or at least be enough of a threat to try to get Randolph in foul trouble.

One area that the Thunder struggled with that can’t be blamed on the Grizzlies defense was their free throw shooting. Oklahoma City shot just 17 of 24 from the charity stripe, or 70.8%. That is down from their league leading regular season high of 82.3%. Also, their 24 attempts is less than their usual 29.3 (you can give Memphis some credit here for not taking unnecessary fouls), which cost them additional points (presuming they’d actually make them). The biggest surprise though was the fact that Durant, Westbrook and Harden eached missed at least 1 attempt (which in an of itself isn’t too bad, but combined it really hurt), despite all being 85% shooters.

It should be an interesting game to watch on Sunday, as the Grizzlies found some weaknesses in the Thunder’s armor. Can Oklahoma figure out a way to get their offense back on track, while at the same time find a way to stop Randolph? That will be the central question, and if they don’t have an answer to it their season will be over.

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