Sunday, May 5, 2013

Game 1: Thunder 93, Grizzlies 91 — Déjà Vu Times Two

Posted By on Sun, May 5, 2013 at 10:28 PM

Game 1 in Oklahoma City Sunday afternoon yielded a pretty simple synopsis: The Grizzlies made too many mistakes — 10 missed free throws and more turnovers than made field-goals in the final five minutes — and Kevin Durant was brilliant.

Ultimately, this game — played, ridiculously, less than a day and a half after the Grizzlies and Thunder had polished off their first-round opponents — felt like a combination of the Grizzlies' Game 1 and 2 losses against the Clippers. Like in Game 1 of that series, the Grizzlies played non-optimal lineups (Austin Daye and Keyon Dooling combined for 13 shaky minutes) and gave up a huge fourth quarter with an All-NBA defender (Tony Allen) mostly on the bench. Like in Game 2 of that series, the Grizzlies lost a close game on the road with a legit superstar (Durant) taking over down the stretch.

It was a frustrating loss, but not one that should shake the team's confidence in terms of being able to win this series. Durant (35-15-6 on 13-26 shooting from the floor and 9-10 from the line) went large. Now-crucial second scorer Kevin Martin (25 and 7 off the bench on 8-14 shooting) was allowed to join him. The Grizzlies got poor play from both of their starting guards, fell apart down the stretch, and missed tons of free throws. All of this and the Thunder barely survived — potentially a missed Quincy Pondexter free-throw from overtime — in their own building. The Grizzlies could play the same game the rest of the series and have a chance to win. And odds are they'll play better.

As for the Thunder, I'm not so sure. Serge Ibaka was a big outlier — 1-10 with five rebounds in 29 minutes, though he played well defensively. But the rest of their rotation seemed to play at or above their norms. Meanwhile, both Mike Conley and Allen had particularly poor games. They both missed a lot of shots around the rim (a combined 4-13). Allen got caught ball-watching defensively a couple of times early, which contributed to Martin finding his groove. And Conley's late-game management was unusually wobbly. The Clippers Game 1 odor was particularly strong here. In that series, both players rebounded strongly in Game 2 and were big positives the rest of the way.

There's plenty more to say here: About Allen's usage and what Lionel Hollins had to say on the subject. About how to use and what to expect from Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. About the role of small-ball. And more. But I'll save all of that for a Game 2 preview coming Tuesday morning.

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