Sunday, May 5, 2013

Notes From Game 1: Oklahoma City Thunder Tops Memphis Grizzlies

Well, that was quick. Only 3 days removed from having his superstar credentials questioned for daring to drop back-to-back games to the *gasp* Houston Rockets, Kevin Durant put on a dazzling all around display, dropping 35 points, snatching 15 boards and handing out 6 dimes en route to a thrilling 93-91 come-from-behind win over the Grizzlies. "Grit n Grind" couldn't trip up the slick shooting Durant, and even without his fellow OKC all star Russell Westbrook, the Thunder provided just enough help to topple the best defense in the league. 1st, review the preview here. Then, on to some things I saw in game 1:

  • Memphis point guard Mike Conley Jr. played Chris Paul to a statistical draw in Round 1, averaging 17 and 8 over the 6 games. Welcome back to earth. Conley was limited to 13  on points on 5-15 shooting and 3 measly assists versus OKC.
  • Marc Gasol and Zach Randoph again caused havoc on the interior, combining for 38 points and 20 rebounds. They demolished Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins (combined 2-16 fg, 7 pts, 12 rbs). So much for Perkins slowing down elite big men. If OKC can't figure out a way to halt the Grizzlies front line, or if Ibaka/Perk doesn't counter with some offense, OKC might be in trouble.
  • After a relatively quiet 14 1st half points, Durant erupted late in the game, scoring 12 of the last 18 OKC points. He finished a tidy 13-26 from the floor.
  • The Battle of the Role Players: 65 year old Derek Fisher and 2nd year man Reggie Jackson did an admirable job filling in for Russell Westbrook; a combined 20 points on 7-15 shooting, and 2-4 from 3. Jackson also showed that his confidence is growing with an acrobatic big time bucket and 2 clutch free throws in the games tight final minutes.On the other side, Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless made a huge impact, combining for 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 dimes, including 5-9 shooting from 3. 
  • Kevin Martin had a vintage "K-Mart with the Sacramento Kings" type game, putting up 25 points and 7 rebounds. He also had a key defensive sequence when he stuffed a driving Pondexter shot attempt in the closing minutes, then won the ensuing jump ball.
  • Lost in Serge Ibaka's abysmal 1-10 stinkarama? Thabo Sefalosha's disappearing act. Thabo only had 4 points, 1 rebound, and a plus/minus of -10. Sefalosha isn't needed to be a big-time scorer, but with Russ out, OKC will need him to return to his 44% 3 pt shooting clip (it dropped to 35% in the 1st round). 
OKC Is Hoping For: a bounce back game from Ibaka and continued aggressive scoring from Kevin Martin.
Memphis Is Hoping For: A much better showing from Mike Conley and finding some combination to slow Kevin Durant.

Game 2 is at 6:30 pst, 7 May on TNT


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