NBA Playoffs 2014: Why the Memphis Grizzlies can beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in Round 1

USA TODAY Sports

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Justin Becker of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com. You can follow him on twitter at @NBAFantasyInfo, and you can follow the Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ Page. For more NBA news visit Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues, a fantasy basketball blog.

Why the Memphis Grizzlies can beat the OKC Thunder in Round 1

The Memphis Grizzlies ambushed the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 2, beating them in OT 111-105 to tie their first round series at 1-1 while taking away home court advantage from the 2nd seed. While some see this as just a loss, there are others who think the Grizzlies have found a chink in the Thunder's armor, which they can utilize moving forward and upset their higher seeded foe.

Let's dive into this further:

Slugfest

Tony Allen described Memphis' game plan after Game 2 via LATimes.com:

"Basically it's just going to be a slugfest. We're going to pound it. They're going to run it. Whoever can come up with the most stops pretty much wins the game."

Memphis stopped OKC from running. In Game 1, the Thunder roared to 32 fast break points. Memphis cut that to half in Game 2, allowing OKC to score only 16 points, despite 5 extra minutes of overtime.

In the regular season, OKC was number five in the NBA in scoring with their 106.2 points per game average.  The Thunder are averaging 102.5 points per game in the first two games of the playoffs. They scored 105 in Game 2, but 6 came in OT.

The Thunder are averaging 35.5 field goal makes per game in the first two games of the series. In the regular season, the Thunder were 6th in the league with 39 made field goals per game.

Memphis is averaging an incredibly low 7.5 turnovers per game, which is tops in the young playoff season. And although OKC's 11 turnovers per game is 3.8 better than their regular season average, Memphis' turnovers average is 5.4 fewer than their average during the regular season. In short, both have been efficient, but Memphis has taken care of the ball better.

Memphis has also pounded the ball down low well, outscoring the Thunder in points in the paint 56-36 in Game 2 and 50-34 in Game 1.

In the regular season, OKC's pace factor, which is the number of possessions a team uses per game, was 97.9. It has remarkably dropped to 91.6 during the postseason.

Bench Factor

Take a look at Memphis' key bench players' contributions from Game 2:

Points

FGA-FGM

+/-

Mike Miller

9

3-6

+13

Beno Udrih

14

6-8

+5

Tony Allen

8

3-4

+2

These three were a combined 19 points in Game 1, with Tony Allen accounting for 13 points. The trio shot 8-22 from the field in Game 1. Memphis had a total of 25 bench points in Game 1, upped that to 33 in Game 2.

Beno Udrih was the x-factor of Game 2. The 14 minutes he played was the most for him in a Grizzlies uniform, and he made the most out of it. Udrih has always been a steady contributor wherever he played. This season, he was lost in Mike Woodson's forgettable season with the New York Knicks.

The Thunder bench could only muster 14 points in Game 2. In Game 1, both teams' benches were even at 25 points apiece.

Mike Miller and Tony Allen have championship experience. They have proven track records of being able to rise to the occasion. If they are able to do that in this series, OKC is in a lot of trouble.

Kevin Durant

Mike Miller said this on defending Kevin Durant via USAToday.com:

"You're not going to limit him. Keep him off the foul line. If you can do that, you have a chance against him. He's going to get his. You've just got to do a good job on him, and we've got wings that can defend. It should be a good matchup."

Here we compare KD's numbers in the postseason and regular season:

Minutes

FGM-FGA

FG%

FTM-FTA

Steals

Points

Regular Season

38.5

10.5-20.8

.503

8.7-9.9

1.3

32.0

Playoffs

44.5

12.5-26.5

.472

5.5-7.0

0.5

34.5

Miller was right. In the first two games of their series, Durant has made 2.2 less points from the foul line on 2.9 less attempts. He is however taking 5.7 more field goal attempts per game, but is just adding 2.5 more points per game as a result. This means that while Durant has scored more than his regular season average, he has had to take more shots, and miss more, to earn them. Note that his field goal percentage has dropped from .503% in the regular season to .472% in the playoffs. Durant was also a key contributor in defense with his steals during the regular season, but with much of the offensive load given to him, that average has also dropped.

With all that being said, the more glaring statistic here is the minutes per game. In the regular season, Durant led the NBA in minutes at 38.5 per game. He's played much more than that in the first two games of the postseason, averaging 44.5 minutes per game. The thing here is fatigue, because Durant has played so much in the regular season, and now he's being asked to play more.

SB Nation 2014 NBA Playoff Bracket

The Tony Allen Factor

Here is an interesting fact from ESPN.com, which shows us the Tony Allen factor:

"Kevin Durant is shooting 36% when guarded by Tony Allen this series, compared to 56% when guarded by anyone else. In Game 2, Durant made 4-of-11 attempts when guarded by Allen."

In the two games of the series, Kevin Durant has shot 10-18 against Memphis defenders other than Tony Allen. He is 9-25 when going up against Allen. Durant is also just scoring 0.86 points per play against Allen, while he is doing much better against the other Grizzlies defenders, averaging 1.36 points per play.

Tony Allen is all about business. This is what he said after his Game 2 effort against Durant via NBA.com:

But it's just a competition at the end of the day, and basically, the game is not about me. It's about the Grizzlies coming in here and basically playing grit-and-grind basketball, holding our hat on the defensive end.

Even Durant said this of Allen's defense, via the same NBA.com report:

He's good. He's good at dodging screens. He's physical.

Durant added:

It's not like I'm just totally getting locked down. He's making it tough.

"Tough and physical" or "grit and grind." Whatever you want to call it, it's working for Memphis, and it's spelling trouble for OKC.

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Justin Becker of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com. You can follow him on twitter at @NBAFantasyInfo, and you can follow the Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ Page. For more NBA news visit Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues, a fantasy basketball blog.

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