Well, well, well.
I was initially really upset about the way the Grizzlies lost Game 1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. I was upset that Tony Allen sat on the bench the entire fourth quarter. I was upset that Jerryd Bayless was tasked with keeping Kevin Martin under control. I was (very) upset that the Grizzlies missed so many free throws—especially the ones Quincy Pondexter missed that could have sealed the game for the Griz.
I was upset that the rotations Lionel Hollins used were very similar to the rotations he used in Game 1 against the Clippers, and we all remember how that one went.
And then? I decided I wasn’t going to be upset about it anymore. I saw a lot of overreaction to the way the game went on Twitter, and then I read the comments on the recap and saw that… yes it was a winnable game. Yes, the Thunder are more vulnerable now than ever, and the Grizzlies need to capitalize. Yes, the pressure is on. But it’s only the first game. There’s plenty of time to get it together.
The Grizzlies lost the first two games to the Clippers, the second of which was a gut-punch of a last-second game winner by Chris Paul. The Griz went on to win the next four games by double digits and send the Clippers packing.
Tonight’s game is important. The Grizzlies have to win a game in Oklahoma City to win the series, and it’d work better for them if they win the one tonight. Here’s how they’ll do it:
- Look, Lionel, I know Quincy is a much more consistent shooter, but you have to play Tony Allen. A lot. On Kevin Martin. Allen’s whole purpose for existing in this series needs to be to make Kevin Martin’s life a living hell. Turn his water off. Shut him down. Make him wish he’d never decided to be a professional basketball player. Harass him, hound him, chase him to the ends of the Earth, rain chaos down upon Kevin Martin and his household. Whatever happens, he cannot score more than 20 points.
- See #1.
- Make free throws. They’re free. If the Grizzlies had made half of the free throws they missed (and they missed ten out of 24 attempts) they would’ve won by 3. They’re free.
- More importantly than #3, is don’t be in a situation where free throws become important. If the Grizzlies are able to shut down the Thunder offense to the point that it’s not a close game down the stretch, the clutch scoring of the Thunder and the thus-far miserable free throw shooting of the Grizzlies won’t be an issue. As far as I’m concerned, the only way the Grizzlies are going to beat the Thunder—even without Russell Westbrook—is defensive intensity.
- Execute down the stretch. I know they were tired, and I know there’s the possibility that Mike Conley got fouled by Thabo Sefalosha on the last play (which is debatable), but the last couple of Grizzlies possessions were total garbage. That can’t happen in a close game in the second round. The other team will punish you for it.
I feel good about tonight—it has to be said that, as hard of a time as we’ve given Hollins around here, he made excellent adjustments in the Clippers series—and I feel good about the series still. Tonight’s certainly not a must-win game. But it sure would be a nice one to have, wouldn’t it? To bring the series back to the Grindhouse tied at 1–1? That’s what I want.
Of course, is any game ever really sealed against a team that features Kevin Durant? ↩
And Durant is almost un-shut-down-able, but it can be done for short stretches of time, and it has been done by a certain "Gritty" and "Grindy" Grizzlies player wearing a #9 jersey and named Tony Allen before… ↩