Going into Game 7 against the Thunder, the main story for the Grizzlies was the suspension of Zach Randolph and how Dave Joerger was going to adjust his lineup. The starting five for the Grizzlies answered that question with Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, Mike Miller, and Marc Gasol on the floor. Joerger decided to gamble by going small. I say gamble because this move means a change in tempo and style. If the Grizzlies have Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos try to take Randolph’s spot, the Grizzlies can play the same style they’ve been playing all series, but by going with the small lineup, the Grizzlies risk getting blown out due to the game going too fast which obviously heavily favors the Thunder.
The Thunder got out to an early 11-4 start, which caused Dave Joerger to call a timeout. I anticipated that maybe Joerger was going to make a lineup change, but he ended up keeping the same guys in after the timeout. That decision appeared to be a good one as the Grizzlies went on an 18-5 run and took a 24-18 lead. Marc Gasol was the key to this run, scoring 11 of those 24 points. Mike Miller and Courtney Lee were also instrumental by knocking down a couple of threes. Things continued to go well for the Grizzlies to close the 1st quarter. Beno Udrih and Kosta Koufos came in and contributed off the bench providing a much-needed lift, and the Grizzlies found themselves up 36-27 at the end of the 1st quarter. The 36 points that the Grizzlies scored equaled the most points the Grizzlies had scored all season in any quarter. To say the least, the small ball appeared to be working. Dave Joerger said after the 1st quarter that he felt they were moving the ball well, playing loose, and giving the Thunder an unfamiliar look.
The Thunder started to get things together in the 2nd quarter. Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson started to get rolling and with the Grizzlies unable to score the basketball, the Thunder were able to cut the Grizzlies lead to just 4 points halfway through the quarter. Before long, the game was tied and the Thunder were in the midst of a 10-0 run. However, the Grizzlies were able to stop the bleeding and ended up only finding themselves down 3 at the half after Kevin Durant hit a three to close the half. Marc Gasol was the hero for the Grizzlies at the end of the half, leading the team with 15 points. Despite shooting 2/10 from 3-point range, the Grizzlies did shoot 14/15 from the foul line, which was huge in their ability to stay in the game.
To start the 3rd quarter, the Thunder clearly tried to bury the Grizzlies early, getting up by 11 points within the first 2 minutes. Another 2 minutes went by and the Thunder were up 15 points with Kevin Durant playing like his MVP self. The Grizzlies were desperately in the need of something to start going their way because things were looking beyond grim at this point. What really hurt was the combination of the Thunder shooting well and the Grizzlies shooting poorly. The Grizzlies missed their first 5 field goal attempts and the Thunder made 6 of their first 8 shots to start the quarter. The Grizzlies did wake up a little bit thanks to Courtney Lee and Tony Allen making some shots, so they were able to prevent the damage from getting any worse, finding themselves down 13 points at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Things continued to go the Thunder’s way in the 4th quarter. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant continued to hit shots and the small ball lineup that had been so effective in the 1st quarter backfired the rest of the way. Dave Joerger tried to utilize John Leur since he can stretch the floor with his long range shooting ability, but it wasn’t enough to turn things around. In addition, after making 6 of his first 8 field goals, Marc Gasol became quieter than a silent movie from the field, only making 1 of his next 10 field goal attempts. In the end, the Grizzlies simply ran out of steam. They fought hard, but the absence of Zach Randolph was too large of a hurdle for them to overcome.
In the end, the Thunder won going away by the score of 120-109. Kevin Durant finished with 33 points and Russell Westbrook finished with a triple double composed of 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 16 assists. Despite his struggles down the stretch, Marc Gasol still was the best player for the Grizzlies tonight, totaling 24 points and 6 assists. As a result of their win, the Thunder advance to face the winner of the Warriors/Clippers series in the Western Conference semifinals.
—Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord
Tags: Memphis Grizzlies