Quantcast 2011 NBA Western Conference Playoffs: Semifinals - Memphis vs Oklahoma City

 

2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Semifinals Game 1 Recap

Western Conference Semifinal Game 1 - Memphis 114, Oklahoma City 101 – Grizzlies lead series, 1-0

 

If you thought that the Oklahoma City Thunder were loving life when they saw the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs bow out of the first round, that perception has already been demolished after just 48 minutes of one-sided basketball. It took only one afternoon at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City for a No. 8 seed to announce its legitimacy in the second round of the NBA postseason.

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The eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies are getting used to defeating higher-seeded teams on their home floor in Game 1’s. For the second straight series, the Grizzlies stole home-court advantage at the first opportunity, this time defeating fourth-seeded Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon. A mere 36 hours after setting a career playoff high with 31 points in eliminating top-seeded San Antonio, Memphis forward Zach Randolph one-upped himself. The crafty southpaw – who is rapidly ripening into one of the top three or four post players in the entire NBA, a tremendous turnaround from an erratic career in its earlier years - poured in 34 points on 12-of-22 shooting in a playful romp against the lead-footed Thunder. The Grizzlies absolutely dominated the paint yet again, scoring 52 points inside the lane. Four other Grizzlies not named Randolph scored in double figures, led by Marc Gasol’s 20 points. When all was said and done, the Randolph-Gasol combo produced 54 points and 23 rebounds, while Oklahoma City’s inside tandem of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, who were expected to give the Thunder more heft and strength near the rim, managed just 18 points and 17 boards between them. This decisive performance by Randolph and Gasol, if replicated over the next two weeks, will enable Memphis to victimize an Oklahoma City team that thought it had addressed its most pressing issue over the course of the season. The Thunder knew they needed to be tougher and more powerful near the basket, but if Memphis can dominate inside six feet of the tin, the Thunder will realize just how little they’ve improved over the past 12 months, ever since the Los Angeles Lakers overpowered them in the first round of the 2010 playoffs.

 

Oklahoma City fell behind 6-4 early in the first quarter and never led again. Memphis stretched the lead to as much as 17. Behind the play of scoring champion Kevin Durant, the Thunder cut into the Memphis lead on a number of occasions in the second and third quarters. When the Thunder got close, the Grizzlies countered with a run of their own. Durant finished with 33 points. His teammate Russell Westbrook continues to struggle. Westbrook needed 23 shot attempts to score 28 points.

The ball is squarely in the court of the Grizzlies, who devoured the Thunder pick-and-roll defense at seemingly every turn. Oklahoma City’s decision to double guards Mike Conley and Grevis Vasquez left players like Randolph and Gasol open in space. They capitalized again and again.

A number eight seed isn’t playing like one. Suddenly, this feels like a seven-game series… if Memphis doesn’t close it out in six.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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