NBA Playoffs 2014: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Game Four Preview

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Allen, haunting the nightmares of Oklahomans everywhere.

2013/2014 NBA Playoffs
vs
Memphis leads series 2-1
April 26th, 2014
FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
8:30 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN/ ESPN
Probable Starters
Mike Conley PG Russell Westbrook
Courtney Lee SG Thabo Sefolosha
Tayshaun Prince SF Kevin Durant
Zach Randolph PF Serge Ibaka
Marc Gasol C Kendrick Perkins
Injury Report

Thunder - n/a

Grizzlies - Quincy Pondexter (out, foot)

Opposing team's blog: Welcome To Loud City

Keys to the game

Defense, defense, defense Look, everybody who's paid any attention to this series knows the story - Tony Allen has been harassing KD and Westbrook to the point of distraction.  Overall as a team, the Grizzlies have harassed the Thunder into sub-40% shooting each of the past 2 games they've won.  The Thunder averaged 106.2 points in the regular season and have only averaged 92 in regulation in those 2 losses.  Even at that the Grizzlies have needed overtime to pull the games, so the margin of error is very slim.  They'll need another gutty defensive effort tonight to hold this team in check.

Michael Conley, jr. Tony Allen has been the story in the media, and rightfully so, but Mike Conley is a big reason why the Grizzlies are in the position they're in.  After shooting 37% vs. the Thunder in the regular season, Mike's shooting 47% in the series and averaging 18.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, and only 2.3 TOPG while playing 39 minutes every night.   He's kept the ball moving and provided a great option for broken plays throughout the series. After missing his first 10 3 point tries in the series, Conley hit 2 huge threes in the second half and overtime for the Grizzlies.

Get good looks As much as I would love to see it, statistics indicate that we're not going to get Game 2 Z-Bo very often against the Thunder - 25 points, 50% from the field, 5-6 from the line, etc.  Game 3 Zach is unfortunately true to form against OKC: 16 points and 10 boards, but on 5-20 shooting (25% - ouch!).  A seemingly big part of why the Thunder were able to make their 4th quarter run was because a) We kept dumping it down to Zach, who would force up a bad shot, and b) Tony Allen took approximately 800 long jump shots.   The Grizzlies will need to utilize motion, matchups and ball movement to get consistently good looks.

Joe's neat-o fact-o-the-day

Teams that go up 3-1 in a series win the series upward of 95% of the time, so a win tonight would be huge.

The Bottom Line

The Thunder are a really dangerous team.  They are one of the few teams in the NBA to finish in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  They've got two stars in Durant and Westbrook.

They have a problem: maybe 99 problems, but Tony Allen definitely is one.  Game 3 came down to Durant and Westbrook trying to hero ball their way out of the mud the Grizzlies have drug them into.  If they keep trying to do that and the Grizzlies keep focusing all their efforts on make those 2 guys' lives difficult, the Grizzlies stand a good chance of winning tonight and ergo winning the series.

The Thunder will no doubt come out with a sense of urgency and look to make some adjustments tonight.  I won't be surprised to see some new looks or a run early from OKC.  That said, Tony Allen, the Grizzlies, and all the questions about a first round exit are in their head now.  At some point, the grind and the Grindhouse will start to wear on them again.  Our cardiac team will doubtless not make it a comfortable night, but the Grizzlies should have every chance to prevail.

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