Grizzlies Grab 2-1 Series Lead Versus Thunder
The Memphis Grizzlies are certainly a different breed of NBA team than the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder play loose and fast, while the Grizzlies play a grit and grind style that has proved successful for them so far this season and without Russell Westbrook in the lineup, the Grizzlies have asserted more of their style into their second-round series with OKC.
Although it certainly wasn’t pretty, the Grizzlies earned another win against the Thunder in game three by a score of 87-81, taking a 2-1 series lead.
“We just stayed after it like we’ve done all year long,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said, according to ESPN.com. “It’s not always pretty. Tonight wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty for us because we got the win.”
Marc Gasol scored 20 points and hit two clutch free throws late in the game, but it was once again Memphis’ defensive that made the ultimate difference. Gasol, the NBA’s defensive player of the year, guided his team to another extraordinary stingy performance against one of the league’s best shooting teams, as the Thunder were held to just 36.4 percent shooting on the night.
Kevin Durant put up 25 points, but the 91 percent free-throw shooter uncharacteristically missed two free throws late in the game. He was obviously disappointed in the overall effort from the West’s number one seed.
“It’s frustrating, but we can’t hang our heads,” Durant said. “We have to keep playing and keep improving. We just have to learn from it. We have to embrace the tough times and get better from it. I believe in my teammates.”
That belief is a good thing for Thunder fans, but they have to be concerned with the OKC’s lack of offense without Westbrook in the lineup against the league’s best defense. We knew knew Westbrook’s absence would take a toll on the team that is accustom to scoring more than 100 points per game, but with we didn’t realize how much it would hurt when playing against the stout defensive of the Grizzlies.
When looking at the series now, the Grizzlies have the clear advantage, especially with a 2-1 lead and another home game coming up in game four against the Thunder on Monday. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Grizzlies take this series in six games, after learning how inept the Thunder are offensively without Westbrook. Look for the Thunder to fight back in game five and extend the series to six games, but expect the Grizzlies to earn the series win and advance to the Western Conference finals.