Nothing the Memphis Grizzlies do is all that pretty, but such is the reason they lead the Oklahoma City Thunder, 2-1. The Thunder, without Russell Westbrook, continue with their identity as a jump-shooting team that plays exceptional defense, but it hasn't been enough against a team willing to pack the paint and bruise with their big men on the offensive end.
Marc Gasol has led the way for the Grizzlies, who have rebounded since a tough Game 1 loss to win the last two. What are the question marks that on Monday will determine the outcome of Game 4 in Memphis?
Can the Thunder stretch the floor and execute in the halfcourt?
Until Oklahoma City proves it has the roster to stretch the floor, the Grizzlies will have no discomfort in forcing their opponent to find enough scoring threats from the perimeter. Reggie Jackson has done enough to help Kevin Durant as a jump shooter, but outside of those two and the erratic Kevin Martin, there's been little help.
Thabo Sefolosha has shot poorly, and power forward Serge Ibaka has struggled mightily with his stroke. The Thunder scored 23 fastbreak points in Game 3, seemingly a good sign for success against the slow-footed Grizzlies. But Oklahoma City still only scored 81 and shot 36 percent in a six-point loss. The halfcourt offense is in major trouble and Scott Brooks must develop a quirky game plan to help his team win with matchups.
Will anyone rattle Marc Gasol?
Through three games the Grizzlies' big man hasn't scored fewer than 20 points, hasn't taken fewer than seven free throws and hasn't found much resistance from Oklahoma City. Thunder coach Scott Brooks went with heavy doses of Kendrick Perkins in Games 1 and 2, then went smaller in Game 3. Despite making it tougher for Gasol to score in the last meeting, Oklahoma City still allowed a 20-point, four-assist outing as Gasol took his game straight to the block once again.
Against the Grizzlies' starting lineup, Oklahoma City could consider sending double-teams toward Gasol off Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince, neither of whom have particularly done much on offense thus far. Whatever the answer might be, they can't allow Gasol to have touches where he likes it.
Who has more playmakers?
Playmaking is a broad term, but the Thunder are backpedaling because they haven't had enough of it.
It's not only that the Thunder don't have enough shooters to space the floor. While the Oklahoma City forward can put up LeBron James-like numbers and Brooks can alter his lineups within games to create mismatches, there's still no other player besides Durant on the roster to put the ball on the deck and create. Jackson and Martin might be capable, but arguably the second-best playmaker for the Thunder is Ibaka, an energy rebounder and shot-blocker.
Meanwhile, Memphis has a post playmaker in Gasol, a creative point guard in Mike Conley, wing defender Tony Allen and instant offense off the bench in Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless. Thus far, the count of playmakers goes in Memphis' favor, but the Thunder have the talent to change that.
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Odds: The Grizzlies opened as 4.5-point favorites.