Make no mistake, they found their mismatch and exploited it — they pounded the Spurs inside, which opened up chances elsewhere. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were beasts the Spurs could not stop.
Memphis, now meet Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka.
Oklahoma City brings a serious front line to the game after it’s midseason trade — and this is its first big test. The book on the Thunder had been you could push them around in the paint, but that was before. In the first round they had no trouble against Denver.
Now it will be put to the test by the Griz, starting in Game 1. We will learn a lot from this game. Stop the Grizzlies from getting their points in the paint and they will shrivel, their offense will wither on the vine. Don’t and the Thunder will be in for a real tough series.
That is the key battle in Game 1, but not the only one. Another thing to watch is fast break points — both teams like to get their offense going with turnovers and points in transition. No team created turnovers like the Grizzlies this season and they will have to do it again. Another thing to watch — the Thunder attack and make a living at the line, can the Grizzlies play good defense without fouling?
Mike Conley was fantastic and outplayed Tony Parker last round, can he do that to Russell Westbrook? That is a more athletic player and challenge for Conley.
One other key in this series is how seriously the Thunder take what is in front of them. They had to be expecting the Spurs a couple weeks ago, now they get the 8 seed Grizzlies.
A Grizzlies are playing very well, something the Thunder will learn very quickly if they don’t come focused to play. The Grizzlies will not roll over. The Thunder have the best players in this series, but Memphis did not get here on accident. This series will be long and challenging and if the Thunder do not come out focused and ready to play, starting with Game 1, they could be in trouble.
Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver
That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.
Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.
What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.
Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.
By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.
How’s that going?
(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.
Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks
Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.
So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.
“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….
“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.
“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”
Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.
Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.