The 2 seeded Oklahoma City Thunder will be facing off against the 7 seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the Western Playoffs. Memphis and the Thunder already played each other 4 times this season, with the Thunder taking 3 out of 4. The Thunder were able to finish out the year with a 34-17 record, while Memphis finished with an astonishing 37-15 record.
The Grizzlies were 13-17 going into January 1st, and the season looked like a disappointment. However, The Grizzlies were finally able to get Marc Gasol back in the line up around January, and they heated up after the new year. They fought their way into the 7th spot, and are now matched up with OKC.
They are obviously the under dogs, as the Thunder have the future MVP, Kevin Durant. But, don't count the Grizzlies out. They are a great team, and remember, finished the second half of the season with a better record than OKC.
Now, in order for Memphis to take control of the series, they will have to play their basketball, and slow down the Thunder offense. In the only game Memphis won, the Thunder shot 40% from the field, 23% from three, and only had 12 assists (Compared to 22 in the previous game versus Memphis). The Grizzlies main point of emphasis is grit and grind, and defense. This will be very difficult to slow down the game and stop the Thunder, but they have shown they can do it.
Also on defense, the Grizzlies will have to find a way to at least contain Kevin Durant. It is impossible to stop Durant, but he can be contained. When Durant takes over a game, the Thunder almost always win. However, if the Grizzlies keep him in check, they will have a chance in the series.
Overall, the Grizzlies have the 3rd best opponents points per game, and play the slowest game in the NBA. If they can slow down the game and contain Durant and Westbrook, they will stay with OKC throughout the series. From there, it will come down to making big plays in the clutch, and completing the upset.
However, upsetting and slowing down the Thunder is much easier said than done. The Thunder play the 9th fastest games in the NBA with the 5th most PPG as a team. Durant is the MVP, and averages above 30 PPG in 4 game versus Memphis. Finally, the Grizzlies have the 27th best offense in the NBA, and cannot out score the Thunder.
I have the Thunder winning comfortably in the first round.
Pace of the series - Can Memphis slow the game down?
Contain Durant - Will Durant take over the series?
Feed the post - The Grizzlies best chance on offense is the half court
Make Clutch plays - Keep the games close, and make big plays at the end