Game 2 was the best. Well, except for Kendrick Perkins sending the game to overtime. Yeah, forget about that. That was the worst. The end result though? Yeah, that was the best.
With the series tied at one apiece, the focus shifts to the Grindhouse for Game 3, where the Grizzlies will need to be every bit as sharp as they were in Game 2 if they want to build on the momentum they have gained in this series. Now that the Grizzlies have tasted success, how will they react?
Three keys to keeping the Thunder down:
20 assists in Game 1. 30 assists in Game 2. That's an obviously large difference that can be attributed just as much to better movement both on and off the ball as it can to guys knocking down open shots. The Grizzlies actually got into their sets on offense in Game 2, rarely stagnating and ending a possession with a poor isolation attempt as they did in Game 1. For our sanity, let's hope the Grizzlies' offense from the latter game is the one that shows up for Game 3 in the FedEx Forum.
Also of note: five Grizzlies had double digit points, and two others were within two points of that mark in Game 2. Memphis has long been a squad that scores by committee, and that's proven to be the best way to catch a terrific Thunder defense off guard. Oklahoma City's defense is stingy, but it becomes a lot easier to break down when they can't focus on one thing i.e. packing the paint.
Grindfather, Please Stay on the Grind
The biggest takeaway from Game 2 might be Tony Allen's defense on Kevin Durant, which was nothing short of miraculous. Per Grantland's Zach Lowe, Durant is 9-25 in the series when guarded by Allen and 10-18 against everybody else. Allen bothered the NBA's scoring champ relentlessly in Game 2, generally not allowing him to get any easy looks.
For the Grizzlies to beat the Thunder in this series, Durant will have to be contained and kept relatively quiet. He can't be allowed to dictate everything that happens for the Thunder offense. Allen gets up for huge matchups like this, and nobody should doubt his will and know how on the defensive end. Although he gives Durant a great advantage in the size department, he more than makes up for it with his intensity and non-stop motor. There's no doubt that the Grizzlies feed off of his energy, and he will need to have a 'Game 2-like' performance in every game for the rest of the series for the boys on Beale Street to advance to the next round.
If you missed Game 2 or just want to watch Allen's flawless defense against Durant again (YEAH YOU DO!), check out this video.
Mitigate Second Chances
Oklahoma City is a tremendous rebounding team, and they've beaten Memphis in that department in both of the first two games. The Thunder are going to crash the glass with reckless abandon, but one thing the Grizzlies cannot allow is an abundance of offensive rebounds. The Thunder had 16 in Game 2, and the shot that Kendrick Perkins made to send the game to overtime happened to come on a put back from an offensive rebound.
With Durant and Russell Westbrook running the show, the Thunder already score easily enough. They can't be allowed garbage points. Oklahoma City has a major length advantage with their big men, which is precisely why the Grizzlies must find a body to box out right when the shot goes up. That's simple basketball, but it's also smart basketball that will help you win games.
Neither team is going to roll over easy in this series, and the Thunder have A LOT of firepower. Durant and Westbrook will both score a lot, which means the role players can't if the Grizzlies are going to win. If there is one certainty entering Game 3, it's that the Grindhouse is going to be L-O-U-D. The big three, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph will carry the Grizzlies, and the role players will step up in huge situations to give the good guys just enough to take the series lead.
Memphis 102, Oklahoma City 99