It could turn out that tonight's Game Six between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies will be the last time we see our Grizz for an, um, uncertain amount of time (Thanks a lot, Impeding Lockout of Doom). It could also be viewed as a last stand for Memphis; after Game Five, many more people may see the Grizzlies going down swinging tonight, but going down nonetheless.
That's not the way we want to think 'round these parts. We want to think that while, clearly, some things need to be improved upon for the Grizzlies to force a Game Seven in this Western Conference Semifinal series, that there's no reason to not be confident. The Grizzlies are back home, and no one should expect them to bow out with a Game Five-like performance. I believe it was Tas Melas of The Basketball Jones who said in a show earlier this week something to the affect of, "This series deserves a Game Seven."
This is, of course, the truth. Tonight, the Grizzlies have to make it a reality. The following are five things to watch if it's going to happen.
1. The Memphis bench absolutely must out-play the Thunder reserves, no question. James Harden has been pretty awesome for OKC so far, and the impact of Nick Collison -- most notably his tireless work against Zach Randolph -- have to be bested by O.J. Mayo, Darrell Arthur, and Greiveis Vazquez. The energy from being at home should help, but this has to be a decided win for the Grizzlies.
2. Randolph and Marc Gasol are probably getting tired -- and understandably so with the defense constantly focused on their every move -- but they have to score more on the inside. The flow of the game has to be controlled by them, not the Thunder bigs. Their footprints haven't been as heavily felt of late; tonight, they must obvious.
3. The Thunder have been rebounding and getting out on the break rather successfully. The Grizzlies' poor shooting certainly helps, but Memphis has to stem the Oklahoma City tide and make them run more half-court offense. The Grizz need to be the ones breaking, not getting broke.
4. The Grizzlies have to put that amazing home-court advantage they have at their disposal to good use. Feed off that crowd, and they'll feed off you. It's a vicious cycle.
5. That leads into the last point, though. The Grizz have gotten off to pretty good starts these last two games, but they haven't been able to maintain them. So while a fast start is welcomed -- especially in getting the crowd involved -- consistency will be the real key tonight.
Consistency and winning. Just get a win tonight, no matter what, and let's see what a Game Seven will bring. Tonight, the Grizzlies just need to give themselves the chance. I believe that's a pretty good defintion of grinding.
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