MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (53-35)
at OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (62-26)
NBA Playoffs - Western Conference First Round
Game 7 – Series tied 3-3
Tip-off: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma City -7.5, Total: 185.5
The Thunder look to advance to the next round with a Game 7 home win against the Zach Randolph-less Grizzlies on Saturday night.
Not only did Memphis lose Thursday's Game 6 at home on Thursday by a 108-84 score, but because PF Zach Randolph punched Steven Adams in the face during the defeat, Randolph has been suspended for Game 7. Another huge factor in this decisive game could be the health of Grizzlies star PG Mike Conley, who suffered a strained hamstring during Thursday's loss. Conley will play, but at much less than 100 percent. After being ridiculed by the local media, Kevin Durant responded with his best game of the series, pouring in 36 points with 10 rebounds. Coach Scott Brooks made a change in the starting lineup as he put Caron Butler in at the shooting guard rather than Thabo Sefolosha. That helped open up more space for Durant and Russell Westbrook to attack the rim, allowing the Thunder to score more than 100 points for the third time this series (2-1). The ability to attack the rim played a big role, as Oklahoma City was able to capitalize on its free throws by making 23-of-25 (92%). Memphis made just 19-of-28 foul shots (68%) in Game 6, and has shot below 70% FT in all three of its losses this postseason. Although the Grizzlies are 14-7 ATS in this series over the past three seasons, including 9-3 ATS on the road, this team is an average 21-21-2 ATS away from home this season. They are 35-19 ATS (65%) when playing six or less games in 14 days over the past two seasons, but are 7-24 ATS (23%) after three straight games of committing 14 or less turnovers this season. The Thunder are 35-9 SU (24-19-1 ATS) at home this season, and 156-99 ATS (61%) versus poor pressure defensive teams (14 or less forced TO per game) under Brooks, but they are also 3-13 ATS (19%) after a game with 15 or less assists over the past two seasons. Memphis has done a great job all season long of controlling the tempo, and will have to do that much better in Game 7 for any chance to win this game.
The Grizzlies had done a great job of not allowing the Thunder to get confident throughout this series, but that was not the case in the Game 6 loss. Oklahoma City was able to shoot 49.3% from the field, and was able to do whatever it wanted in the open court with 17 fast-break points. Memphis made only 31-of-83 from the field (37%), including just 3-of-14 from deep. PG Mike Conley (15.2 PPG, 7.7 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.7 SPG in series) had his worst game of the series, scoring only five points on 2-of-10 FG with six assists and four rebounds. Memphis got a normal big night from the inside duo of C Marc Gasol (16.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.3 SPG in series) and PF Zach Randolph (18.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG in series), but did not get a lot of help from the perimeter. Gasol finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists while Randolph contributed 16 points and eight rebounds. Gasol will need to be much more of an offensive force with Randolph suspended for this game. SF Mike Miller (8.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG in series) had a big performance in Game 5 (21 points, 5-of-8 threes), but could not get into a rhythm on Thursday night, and finished with only seven points on 2-of-6 FG. Another big problem was the fact that Memphis could not slow Oklahoma City down from attacking the rim, as the team was able to block only one shot all game. With the way the Thunder love to attack the rim, the Grizzlies have to cause more problems, or this game could be over quick. PF James Johnson (6.3 PPG in series) gave the Grizzlies a strong performance off the bench with 15 points and five rebounds, and could be looked upon to play some more meaningful minutes in Game 7. If Conley is limited by injuries, then backup PG Beno Udrih (7.2 PPG, 2.0 APG in 16.3 MPG in series) will have to play a much bigger role. He finished with only two points and three assists in Thursday's loss.
SF Kevin Durant (29.3 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.7 BPG in series) was back to his old self on Thursday night, scoring his 36 points in many different ways. He was able to get rolling from the beginning, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. While Durant was the star of the night, PG Russell Westbrook (25.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.5 SPG in series) played one of his best games of the season and finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists. He didn't force shots like he had previously done in the series, and ran the offense nicely and set his teammates up all night. After a quiet Game 5 (6 points on 2-of-7 FG), PG Reggie Jackson (11.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG in series) was big part of the offense on Thursday with 16 points (6-of-9 FG, 4-of-5 threes), and five rebounds. The installation of SF Caron Butler (6.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG in series) to the starting lineup helped open up the driving lanes for the Thunder, allowing Durant and Westbrook more space to attack the rim. Butler contributed only seven points, four rebounds and three assists, but posted a +13 rating over his 29 minutes. The interior defense of the Thunder was impressive too, blocking 11 shots in the game, including four from PF Serge Ibaka (13.2 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.0 BPG in series). Ibaka had a quiet game offensively though, scoring just eight points with seven rebounds. Rookie 7-foot C Steven Adams logged just 21 minutes in the first five games of this series combined, but made a big presence from the bench in Game 6 with five blocks in his 20 minutes of action. If the Thunder can get a big game from the bench, they will be in great position to finish off this series with a victory.