Through three games, the Memphis Grizzlies have muddied up Oklahoma City's high-powered offense. The Thunder are scoring just 101.9 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com/stats, which is six points less than they produced in the regular season.
Now the Thunder find themselves with their backs against the walls and in a must-win situation on the road. If the Thunder lose, they'll face back-to-back elimination games before even having the chance to bring the series back to Oklahoma City for Game 7. If Memphis takes game four, they can close out at home in Game 6, while an OKC win would shift the momentum back to the Thunder.
It's clear that the Thunder aren't matching up well with the Grizzlies. Memphis has a flurry of long-armed, perimeter defenders to challenge Kevin Durant, although Tony Allen is best at it. Allen is a scrappy, balls-to-the-wall one-on-one defender who is confident enough to hassle any perimeter player. The rest of the team focuses on Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. Memphis basically ignores Thabo Sefalosha and Kendrick Perkins when the two are on the floor.
Oklahoma City is too reliant on Durant and Westbrook for its offense. The two are responsible for nearly 60 percent of the team's shot attempts through the first three games. Westbrook puts a ton of pressure on defenses with his relentless attacking, but he simply can't take shots like this:
That's an easy pass to an easy dunk that closes Memphis' lead to one point. But Westbrook shoot, missed and Oklahoma City lost out on an opportunity to pull closer. Reggie Jackson has taken a hit with Westbrook and Durant's increased usage. In the regular season, Jackson shot 11.5 times and averaged 13.1 points per game. But through three games, he's shot just 19 times total, netting only 15 points.
If there's anything the first three games of this series have taught us, it's that two players can't beat the Grizzlies.
TV Schedule: ESPN; 9:30 p.m. ET
Announcing crew: Mark Jones, Doris Burke and JA Adande
Local: SportsSouth, FS Oklahoma HD, ESPNR, WMFS, WWLS 98.1FM OKC
Canada: SPORTSNET ONE