All good things must come to an end.
And, by most accounts, the match-up between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder is the best thing to happen to the first round of the NBA playoffs. Ever.
After four straight overtime games, a handful of stellar defensive performances (aside from the insistence of fouling three-point shooters), and pushing the presumptive MVP and his crew to the brink of elimination, it is time for the Grizzlies to end their opening-round series with a victory Thursday night.
Through 5 contests this postseason, Memphis has held Kevin Durant to 28 points per contest, down from his league-leading 32 PPG from the regular season. While this drop does not indicate Memphis’ playoff defense wildly affecting the superstar’s offense, his 10% drop in FG percentage illustrates the impact quite effectively (50% FG reg season to 40% vs Memphis in the playoffs). There is no denying that, despite posting a large number of points, Durant is struggling in this series, and that is a huge component to the Grizzlies 3-2 lead.
What Grizzlies’ fans may find alarming is that Durant did not shoot less than 50% from the field in any of his games against Memphis this season. In fact, the Thunder forward carved up the boys from Beale Street to the tune of 30.8 PPG on 51.8% shooting. This is a sign that, even though the defensive intensity has turned up, Durant is due for a big game.
Some observers may say that with Tony Allen guarding Durant, the Grizzlies have found a blueprint on how to slow Durant, and effectively stop the Thunder’s offensive attack as a result.
The stats say that Durant may be heating up against the current defensive approach Memphis has been taking.
While Allen has played fantastic defense this series, this NBA.com article shows Durant was actually extremely effective against his defensive efforts in Game 5. This is yet another signal that the explosive scorer is due for an eruption soon.
Memphis has struggled to close out games this series, as shown by the four straight overtime contests. While there is no shame in going to overtime against one of the best teams in the league, if the Grizzlies want to move on in the seemingly wide-open Western Conference, they need to end this series Thursday night in Game 6. The possibility of a Durant offensive-explosion, along with the prospect of the unenviable task of trying to knock off the soon-to-be MVP and his cast of hungry teammates in their arena for all the marbles, is too much to let the Thunder live to see another playoff day.
Game 6 is the Grizzlies last guaranteed home game, but if they want to give themselves at least two more, it would behoove them not to risk a Game 7 situation.
It looks like closing time at the Grindhouse, one way or the other.