Prior to tonight’s Game 1 tilt between the Thunder and Grizzlies, the Nets, Warriors, and Hawks all found success on the road, stealing Game 1. The Thunder seemed to take note of this trend when tonight’s game started, and quickly got off to a 14-2 start. The Grizzlies woke up a little bit after that start, but still struggled to finish the first quarter strong and found themselves down 29-16 at the end of the 1st quarter shooting 5/29 from the field. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the other hand, had no problem finding the bucket, scoring a combined 21 points on 9/15 shooting.
The second quarter wasn’t much better for the Grizzlies. The poor shooting continued, as the Grizzlies didn’t score a basket outside the paint until there was less than 5 seconds to go in the first half. One of the keys to the Grizzlies’ success against the Mavericks and Suns earlier in the week had been the successful shooting of Mike Miller and Courtney Lee to help space the floor. But with those guys unable to hit the broad side of a barn from 3-point range and the team collectively shooting 9/20 from the foul line, the Grizzlies dug themselves into a bigger hole and ended up finding themselves down 54-36 at the half.
However, things started to turn for the better once the third quarter was underway. The Grizzlies got out to an 8-0 start and within 5 minutes cut the lead to single digits. Dave Joerger clearly told them something at halftime judging by the way they came out after half time. The Grizzlies moved the ball much better, they got a lot more easy shots, and they capitalized on their defensive stops by hitting their shots. As a result of their incredible turn around, the Grizzlies went from being down by 25 points to being down by just 4 points at the of the 3rd quarter. At this point, the Thunder crowd was incredibly nervous and the Grizzlies were very much in a groove.
However, as one would expect, the Thunder didn’t stay in their funk for long. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook got back into their groove and started to hit their shots and the Grizzlies ran out of steam and couldn’t completely erase the 25 point deficit that they faced earlier in the night. The end result was a Thunder victory by the score of 100-86. Kevin Durant finished with 33 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, showing why he is going to win MVP this year.
The harsh reality of NBA basketball, especially in the playoffs, is the fact that you can’t get down by double digits on the road and still expect to win the game. However, there is good news to for the Grizzlies to take away from tonight, which is that they showed they can hang with the Thunder. They didn’t get blown off the court like we all thought they would at half time. They fought hard in the second half, didn’t give up, and ended up giving the Thunder a real scare. Hopefully they use the lessons learned from tonight’s loss to have a much more successful outing on Monday night and walk away with a split in Oklahoma City, which is all they need to win this series. Don’t let tonight’s loss cause you to lose hope. There is still a ton of basketball left to be played and the Grizzlies are still very much alive in this series.
—Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord