Two years ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies went seven games, including a triple-overtime matchup. Swap out some players -- less James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Rudy Gay, more Kevin Martin and Tayshaun Prince -- and it looks like we have ourselves another even matchup.
The differences were so slim in Game 1. Oklahoma City had 43 rebounds, Memphis 41. Oklahoma City had 10 turnovers, Memphis 11.
The differences? One team had Kevin Durant, who had 35 points, including the eventual game-winner on a late pull-up in transition. And one hit 22-of-25 free throws, while the other -- the Grizzlies, who lost -- hit just 14-of-24, including two by Quincy Pondexter late as he tried to tie the game when the Thunder inexplicably fouled him while shooting a three.
Game time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Odds: Oklahoma City opened as a 3-point favorite.
Judging from the past, Game 2 should be another tight one. Here are three questions about Tuesday night's matchup, as the Grizzlies try to even up the series.
1. How go the Kevins?
With Russell Westbrook out, Oklahoma City's scoring will rely primarily on two players: Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin. Although Reggie Jackson has shown flashes, Serge Ibaka can hit mid-ranges ad Derek Fisher has a Rasputin mindmeld over everybody in the NBA that allows him to contribute in the clutch in the playoffs, there really isn't much else there offensively for the Thunder. Durant and Martin answered the challenge in Game 1. The league's MVP runner-up posted 35 points and the game-winner, and Martin reminded us why he used to be a top-10 scorer in the league with his second-consecutive 25-point game after only cracking 20 points 10 times in the regular season.
Some teams are of the "let them go off and force them to beat you" mindset. Some would toss their best defenders at the other squad's elite players and make the other team win with lesser talent. The Grizzlies have the defensive personnel to do either. The No. 2 team in the league in defensive efficiency, it is stacked 1-through-5 with strong defensive players, and also has a pair of perimeter stoppers in Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince. The Thunder actually came away pleased with the way they defended Durant in Game 1, feeling he managed his points due to all-world scoring ability and not poor attempts to stop him.
Will the Grizzlies make Durant and Martin struggle, or will they once again lead their team without much offensive help from their teammates?
2. Can Memphis win inside again?
It's a matchup Memphis needs. Randolph is a bullying scorer and amazing rebounder despite not being able to jump, and Gasol is the Defensive Player of the Year and a nifty passer with a refined, yet burly post game. Their opponents could be good, but weren't in Game 1. Serge Ibaka is a lengthy shot blocker who could mess with Randolph's gravity-challenged game, but he wasn't strong enough to stop Randolph in Game 1 and his offense was nowhere to be found, going just 1-for-10, as Welcome to Loud City wrote. Perkins still has the muscle and tenacity to nag, but he's not the gruff defensive stalwart he once was with Boston and early in his Oklahoma City career, and finished 1-for-6 from the field in Game 1
The Grizzlies don't just need to win inside, they need to dominate it. It's a strength for Memphis, and a potential weakness for Oklahoma City. Can Gasol and Randolph be at their best?
3. Whose bench wins?
The Grizzlies' bench is one of the most hit-or-miss in the league. Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter can heat up quickly, and both did in Game 1, combining for 23 points on 5-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Darrell Arthur can get up and down the court like few big men and occasionally hit a long jumper. And even Keyon Dooling has been a calming veteran influence as a bench point guard. They can also all be off: Bayless and Pondexter can miss ad nauseum. Arthur had three turnovers and two points in a short stint Sunday, and Keyon Dooling is Keyon Dooling. Some nights they're a spark; others, Lionel Hollins is afraid to let the bench loose.
Meanwhile, besides Kevin Martin -- who really shouldn't count as a bench player -- the Thunder's bench is Fisher, who we discussed already, and Nick Collison, who can either be a solid rebounder or worthless. But Scott Brooks liked what he saw from his role players in Game 1.
Durant and Randolph are obviously the big figures, but the other guys should be important in what's clearly an evenly matched series. Who's an X Factor off the bench?