The Thunder come into this series having beat the Nuggets with a great closing game performance by Kevin Durant and the Grizzlies come in with an upset win over the #1 seeded San Antonio Spurs. The more and more I think of this, the got hosed in their playoff seeding. They are getting all of the good teams.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Durant and Westbrook,...where's the help? I've been waiting on Harden. Ibaka showed his usefulness with his defensive performance against the Nuggets. He was swatting every shot that was thrown up. This team needs a third scorer so that Westbrook can cut back on some of his forced shots. It's going to be more important in this series that the Thunder play defense, because I'm sure that they have enough offense to matchup with the Grizzlies and their deep bench.
Well you upset the #1 seed and now you get, arguably, the second best team in the West (Lakers being the best team in the West). This Grizzlies team woke up and learned a lot in that series against the Spurs. They learned from their Game 5 that they really have to put their foot on their competitions necks to finish series. The Grizzlies bench played well, but this team was led by Randolph and Gasol. (Just as a note, this trip to the playoffs doesn't in anyway validate the trade that the Grizzlies participated in to get Gasol). Randolph was unstoppable and I guess that's what that $70M extension does for him. Gasol didn't have the numbers that Randolph had but he caused Tim Duncan problems in the paint and effectively took him out of the series. The bench was led by Darrell Arthur who seemed to hit every 17 foot jumper that he took. If he keeps this up with the play that they got from Vasquez and the rest of the bench, it's going to be tough sledding for the Thunder.
Thunder - Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Westbrook has got to run this team on a consistent basis and no do another Game #4 (30 shots, 30 points). He's gotta find the shooters on the team and hit those jumpers in the lane. Yes, He's Derrick Rose-light, so he's gotta play that way. James Harden HAS got to be that 3rd scorer for this team. Memphis is deep and they are going to need points off the bench.
Grizzlies - Greivas Vasquez and Sam Young/Tony Allen. Greivas is the man coming off the bench and backing up Conley. If you watched him play at Maryland, you know what he can do. The fact that he's doing it on a consistent basis, great! Sam Young/Tony Allen, these guys should draw the defensive assignment of stopping, well sowing down Kevin Durant. If they can do a decent job of this, the Grizzlies advance.
Prediction: I want to see a Lakers/Thunder Western Conference Final and the NBA has done all it can to put that in doubt. The Grizzlies are coming off a great series win and I'm still trying to figure out their weakness. They are long, athletic, and can control the paint. What else do you need? Hollins (coach) has been there as a player and won, but is he as a coach that missing piece? As much as I want the Thunder to win, I'm liking this Grizzlies team more and more. Grizzlies 4-3.