I once heard that the NBA playoffs cause the biggest swings in team evaluation game to game. A team wins and perception becomes that team will not lose again in the series. They lose and the sky falls, signaling some sort of basketball apocalypse.
Obviously neither are true and the playoffs are about adjustments.
The Memphis Grizzlies find themselves down 1-0 in their Western Conference first-round series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. But all is not lost. OKC looked great, they looked fresh, but they aren’t unbeatable. Memphis had some things go very wrong for them, including Zach Randolph’s foul trouble, which should be better going forward.
Looking ahead to Game 2 the Grizzlies will need the following tweaks in their overall output to even the series.
Accurate Shooting: The Grizzlies were only able muster 36 percent shooting in Game 1 with the bulk of their production coming inside the paint. While they held the edge in paint production 50-34, the mid-range game has to be more effective the rest of the series. Courtney Lee was an efficient 4-for-6 from the floor and needs to look to be more aggressive. He has a tendency to disappear, becoming overly selective offensively but has the capability to score. With a reliable 3-point shot in the regular season (37 percent) he needs to take and make a couple treys to help keep the Thunder’s defense honest.
Mike Miller was only 1-for-6 from the floor and he, too, needs to let it fly in Game 2 and beyond. The Grizzlies got unexpected production from Tony Allen (6-for-12 from the floor) but that seems like fool’s gold unlikely to be replicated. With Tayshaun Prince seemingly inept, the wing production falls on the trio of Lee, Miller and Allen. If the Grizzlies run Lee and Miller off double screens on the baseline out to the corner with Gasol at the top, they should get some easy looks for 3. Lee can use his dribble to get a shorter mid-range shot or potentially go to the basket to finish or find a diving Marc Gasol. Miller’s ability to catch and shoot has been a staple of his game but he can’t allow missing one or two shots to deter him from firing.
Limit OKC’s transition game: A task easier said then done with the Thunder’s superior athleticism but the Grizzlies have to find a way. If their shooting improves that alone will help stop the Thunder from initiating the break off long misses. OKC crushed Memphis 32-13 in transition and while the Grizzlies might never win that statistic, the difference can’t be as vast the rest of the series.
Memphis has athletes like Allen and James Johnson who can “sort of” keep up with OKC’s speed but they both are limited offensively and Johnson seems to have an issue focusing to garner a large role on the team. The answer to this quandary really will come from the guards and wings of the Grizzlies who will have to be cognizant to get back on missed shots or long outlet passes when the Thunder try to quicken the pace.
Increased bench production: Based on points the Grizzlies were only outscored by one (26-25) by the Thunder’s bench in Game 1. However, Allen basically became the starter once Prince left with an illness so their bench production wasn’t quite as good as it may have seemed. Efficiency is the key to a team’s bench especially in the playoffs where stars and starters tend to log heavy minutes. I’ve already mentioned Miller and Allen, but the bigs on the bench for Memphis also have to be effective in limited time. Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos should look to contribute as maniac rebounders, especially on the offensive glass as their games aren’t suited for feature work on the post. In other words grit and hustle are what they must provide in hopes of providing Memphis extra possessions for second-chance points which in turn can also help limit OKC’s break.
The Grizzlies don’t want to head back to Memphis down 2-0 and can easily even the series with corrections/enhancements in the above mentioned areas in Game 2.