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Playoffs Round Two: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, Series Predictions!

We'll admit, if you're not a Grizzlies fan or supporter you probably want to move on. We took a stab at predicting the Round 2 series against the Oklahoma City Thunder and, well, you can guess what's coming next. 

In our defense, we back up our predictions with some good old-fashioned analysis. We know this series is not going to be easy, and realize that we're riding a high right now. But the team at SoV sees a real opportunity to continue gritting and grinding our way through the playoffs. After all, the Grizzlies are 3-1 against the Thunder and 8-4 against the teams remaining in the playoffs. That's not so bad, right?

On to the predictions!

For more predictions on this series, see our friends over at the SB Nation NBA page (some really interesting takes!). 



The hardest part about making a prediction for this series is actually accepting that we've gotten to this point. Don't get me wrong, I predicted the Grizzlies would beat the Spurs (in 7 games, actually), but beyond that never gave it much thought as to what would happen when we did beat San Antonio. For some, the first round series was our NBA Finals. For a franchise who had never won a playoff series, let alone a game, toppling the Spurs meant we needed to actually amend our bucket list. 

What stands in the way of the Grizzlies making a second highly improbable run in the playoffs is a somewhat retooled Thunder team. True, Memphis took three of four from Oklahoma City during the regular season, but they've yet to face the Kendrick Perkins-Serge Ibaka frontline, which, believe it or not is more imposing than San Antonio's. The story changes, but ever so slightly. We still hold the advantage in the post, and winning the battle off the glass is going to be key if the Grizzlies want to make this an interesting series. 

Of course I worry about Kevin Durant, but the key to beating the Thunder is accepting defeat in a war with Durant. Battles can be won, but not the war. Tony Allen will use his quick hands and active feet to hound Durant on defense, and while I expect KD to get his 30 points, the battle lies in offensive efficiency. I echo that sentiment in the fight against Russell Westbrook. I'll admit, I am prepared for him to torch Mike Conley on offense, just as he did during the regular season where he averaged 24.5 points on 47.2% shooting in four games. That's five percentage points north of his career FG%. While the Grizzlies were able to disrupt Westbrook from setting the offense, forcing 4.3 turnovers per game, when he initiated the offense setting up his own shot he was spectacular. Conley is going to need a lot of help defense. They can't let Westbrook shoot 47% from the floor in this series.

Finally, the Grizzlies need believe that they can win on the road. That's no easy task against the Thunder, who were 30-11 at home during the regular season. Memphis shared a 30-11 home record, yet unlike the Thunder they won just 16 road games (Thunder won 25 on the road). While you always argue that a win is a win, it's no small fact that the only road game we won in our series against the Spurs was Game 1, when San Antonio was without Manu Ginobili

After all of that, I believe that the Grizzlies can and will win this series. We still should dominate the post, despite the fact that the Thunder have added Perkins. At times throughout the playoffs our defense has been spectacular, and while we'll give up 60 points to Durant and Westbrook, forcing turnovers, disrupting the passing lanes and keeping the pressure on players not named Durant and Westbrook to step up and beat us is key -- force them into a Gary Neal moment, if you will. I also think that in the minds of many we've already won the playoffs, meaning we have nothing to lose in this series and can play as such. Honestly, I don't see us losing a home game and I can certainly see us picking off a non-Game-7 road game, which leads to my prediction: Grizzlies in 6


Mark Travis:

The Memphis Grizzlies, just two days after finishing off their first round upset over the San Antonio Spurs, will face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semi-Finals with game one taking place a few hours from now at the Ford Center.

The Grizzlies have their work cut out for them when it comes to stopping  the Thunder's dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant but the  Grizzlies have shown that their team defense is no joke either. No  matter who the Grizzlies use defensively, whether it's Tony Allen on  Kevin Durant and Mike Conley on Westbrook or Allen on Westbrook with Shane  Battier taking Durant, the Grizzlies have the personnel to take on the  challenge of stopping Durant and Westbrook. It's not fair to say that the Grizzlies will shut the Thunder out but they can limit the amount of clean looks from the field. A lot of people are riding the Kevin Durant bandwagon right now after he scored a good amount in the Thunder's first round series against the Nuggets but what I saw was a guy that took 104 shots to score 114 points from the field, which is just about average efficiency.

Inside, the Grizzlies will have a big advantage on the Thunder.  Though Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka are better suited to stop Zach  Randolph and Marc Gasol than the Spurs were it's hard to imagine either player getting shut  down. Randolph has a strength advantage on Serge Ibaka and frequently  neutralizes his opposition's athletic advantage by backing them beneath  the basket where they have no chance to stop him from scoring. Gasol  will have his hands full with the strength of Perkins in the post but  we've seen his brother have some success on Perkins and Marc's game has  expanded to the point where you can expect him to score on good  defenders consistently. On the other end, the Thunder big men have  limited games and as long as Memphis can keep Ibaka from crashing the  offensive glass, I think the Grizzlies can win the battle down low.

If Memphis can slow the game down by going into the post and getting  good looks, limiting the amount of shot attempts Westbrook and Durant  get while making them work for everything with great perimeter defense I  think Memphis will take this series in six.