Monday, May 13, 2013

Griz-Thunder Game 4 Preview

Posted By on Mon, May 13, 2013 at 9:05 AM

A few quick thoughts ahead of tonight's Game 4:

Will the Griz Regret Game 1?: Before this series started, I picked the Grizzlies to win in 6, and that's still where I'm at. But I'm actually slightly less optimistic about their prospects than I was before Game 3 despite the team pulling that one out. The Thunder finally made the adjustments they needed in Game 3 and it almost got them a victory. If series trends have reversed with those adjustments, then dropping Game 1 will be tough to stomach. The Grizzlies squandered 38 minutes of Kendrick Perkins and Hasheem Thabeet (the duo was a combined -14), a gift unlikely to be repeated in the series, via missed free throws and having Tony Allen on the bench while Kevin Durant led a fourth-quarter comeback. In retrospect — if even that — the Grizzlies spotted the Thunder a game, and with OKC seeming to have figured things out a little, that's dangerous.

Will OKC Go Small Ball or Bust?: The Thunder have outscored the Grizzlies in the series with lineups featuring only one "big" (which almost always includes Kevin Durant at power forward) and Game 3 was the first time their lineup distribution tipped in that direction, playing 27 minutes small (+2) to 21 minutes big (-8). Given the results, does Brooks push most of his chips in on small ball tonight? If so, the Grizzlies can't let themselves be out-rebounded again, and need to make their big lineups work to resist the temptation of keeping one of their three best players on the bench in order to match up with the Thunder. This all makes Zach Randolph a key player tonight. It was Randolph's inability to control offensive rebounds in his grasp that stood out most amid the Game 3 rebounding problems. And it's Randolph that will likely be "hiding" on a Thunder perimeter player defensively.

Whose Jumper Returns?: Mike Conley's clutch free-throws in the final minutes of Game 3 gave him the slight edge in the Conley/K-Mart Correlation race and the Grizzlies a narrow victory, but neither played very well by their standards. Thunder sixth man Kevin Martin shot 6-17 from the floor and 1-3 from long range. Conley was 3-9 and as well as he's played this post-season, he's done so largely without a jumper. Conley's now at 29% from three through nine playoff games, including 4-14 against the Thunder. If one of these guys gets hot tonight and the other doesn't, it could easily swing the game.

Will the Crowd Get Live?: Let's be honest: The atmosphere for Game 3 — until the last couple of minutes — was a little disappointing. Was it that the odd 4 p.m. start had a lot of fans wearing themselves down on Beale for some extended pre-game activities? Was it just that the Clipper series was so much more driven by a collective revulsion at the very sight of the opposition? Whatever it was, hopefully tonight's 8:30 tip will yield a more spirited game atmosphere earlier on.

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