You know it's coming, but the question is whether the Grizzlies can maintain a bounce-back performance from Kevin Durant in Sunday's Game 7. It's not often you hold the world's top scorer to just 11 points in 37 minutes. Those 11 points, a season low, were on 3-of-14 shooting, with just one of those attempts coming within 10 feet of the basket. Not only a poor shooting performance by Durant, but a fantastic defensive showing by the Grizzlies keeping Durant married to taking long jumpers.
If you really want to read into things, this is also the first time this season Durant failed to drop 20 points in back-to-back games. Though, do note that in Game 5 Durant was held to 19 points in 30 minutes after the Thunder pretty much buried the Grizzlies by the end of the 3rd quarter. What more can the Grizz do to counter on Sunday?
The Grizzlies have actually been in this spot before (sort of), having had to play Durant after his worst regular season performance on March 6 against the Suns. Durant shot 3-of-14 from the floor (21%) on his way to scoring 18 points--despite his lagging effort, however, the Thunder beat the Suns 122-118. The following night, the Thunder were in our house with the topic du jour being, "How might Durant respond?" Well, if you recall, the Grizzlies held KD in check, forcing him to shoot just 8-of-20 from the floor and only 3-of-5 from the free-throw line. Again, the Griz found success in forcing Durant to shoot long jumpers, including 10 3-point attempts.
The Grizzlies won that March 7 contest by playing to their strengths--forced 16 turnovers and pushed the Thunder to take 38 long jumpers (beyond 16 feet). And while the situations are apples and oranges (a March regular season game vs. Game 7 of the playoffs in OKC), the Grizzlies need to take a page out of the past (March 7) and the present (Game 6) and execute thusly on Sunday.
Winning Game 7 on the road won't be easy, and it's going to take more than simply keying in on Kevin Durant, but the top priority will be to make sure that whatever bounce back performance is bound to transpire the Grizzlies need to make sure that he's forced to work at getting his buckets (see: March 7 and/or Game 6).
More to come later, but let's get the conversation going in the comments sections. Want to hear what you guys have to say about Sunday's matchup.
For more on the Thunder see our friends at Welcome to Loud City.