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Thunder seek 2-0 series lead Monday vs. Grizzlies
By: Mark Kern - StatFox
Published: 4/21/2014  at  5:04:00 AM
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MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (50-33)

at OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (60-23)

NBA Playoffs - Western Conference First Round
Game 2 - Oklahoma City leads series 1-0
Tip-off: Monday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma City -7, Total: 189.5

The Thunder look to build off a dominating Game 1 victory against the Grizzlies when the two teams square off again on Monday night.

With Russell Westbrook back healthy this postseason, it was expected that Oklahoma City would come out with a lot of energy in Game 1, and that is exactly what it did by taking a 22-point lead into the halftime intermission. Oklahoma City did a great job in that first half of getting out and running the ball, as the team was able to score 21 fast-break points in the opening two quarters. However, Memphis was able to turn things around in a 31-13 advantage in the third quarter, mainly because it was able to slow the pace of the game down. The Grizzlies are not going to win games when they allow 100+ points, and they must get off to a better start defensively if they are going to get the victory to even this series. Memphis was able to connect on only 36% of its shots from the field (2-of-11 threes), and also left a lot of points at the free throw line (18-of-31, 58%). The Thunder shot 45% FG (but only 4-of-16 threes) and drained 28-of-32 free throws (88%). The Grizzlies are now 36-44-3 ATS this season, including 19-21-2 ATS on the road, but are 11-6 ATS in this series over the past three seasons, including 7-3 ATS in Oklahoma City. Memphis is also 55-37 ATS (60%) when facing a winning team over the past two seasons. The Thunder improved to 44-38-1 ATS overall and 24-17-1 ATS with Saturday's victory, and they are also 14-3 ATS (82%) versus horrible foul drawing teams (21 or less FTA per game) this season. The Grizzlies remain without reserve PG Nick Calathes (suspension), but PF Tayshaun Prince (illness) is expected to play on Monday.

The Grizzlies did a great job of getting the shots that they wanted in the game with 91 FG attempts (OKC had 76), thanks in part to 13 offensive rebounds. If they can get those same shots in Game 2, they should be in great shape. A big reason why the team was able to get so many looks is because Memphis turned the ball over only six times and produced 20 assists. Against a team that can run like the Thunder, ball-handling is a crucial part of the game. PG Mike Conley (16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals in Game 1) did a great job of running the offense and getting the ball to his teammates with 11 assists and just one turnover. However, Conley really struggled with his shooting from the outside, making just 6-of-16 shots, including 0-for-6 threes. For Memphis to win this game, it will have to get better production from PF Zach Randolph, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds in Game 1. While those numbers look good, he was able to connect only 33% of his FG attempts (7-of-21), and a lot of those misses led to run-outs for the Thunder. SG Tony Allen and C Marc Gasol each scored 16 points for Memphis, but while Allen was especially effective in the second half of getting to the basket and played great defense with a team-high +9 rating, Gasol posted a woeful minus-15 rating. The Grizzlies are a good rebounding team, but got drilled on the glass in Game 1 (51-41). The Thunder got 44 defensive rebounds, and that is why they were able to get so many fast-break points in the first half. For Memphis, the changes that need to happen on Monday night are not that difficult, because if the team shoots better, the rebounding should be more even, and if it handles the ball like it did in Game 1, the club has a great chance to even up this series.

PG Russell Westbrook (23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists) started out just as one could expect, energized. When he is able to use his quickness for some easy points, it not only gets him going, but it also gets the team and crowd rolling as well. While he was impressive in Game 1, he was far from the only player that shined for the Thunder. SF Kevin Durant (33 points, eight rebounds and seven assists) was his normal self, scoring 13 points in the final quarter to help the Thunder hold on for the victory. He finished the day 13-of-25 from the floor, including 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. A big reason why Oklahoma City was able to slow down the Grizzlies early was its great shot-blocking ability, finishing with 10 blocks on the night. With Randolph not being the most athletic player for Memphis, as long as the Thunder defenders buy the head fakes and rely on their length, it will be tough for the Grizzlies to get a lot of points down low. PF Serge Ibaka (17 points, nine rebounds and four blocks) was terrific the entire game, dominating on both ends of the court. Oklahoma City ranked second in the NBA to Portland during the regular season from the free-throw line, and the Thunder were terrific on Saturday night (28-of-32). With a lot of games coming down to the wire in the playoffs, the advantage at the free-throw line for Oklahoma City is big. Reserves SF Caron Butler (nine points, game-high +18 rating) and PG Reggie Jackson (nine points, eight rebounds, four assists) gave the team valuable scoring throughout the game. If the Thunder can come out and set the tempo from the beginning, it will be very difficult for the Grizzlies to avoid going down 0-2 in the series.

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