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.
Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)
Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.
Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.
Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest
In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.
And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.
The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.
There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)
“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”
The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.
“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”
So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.
Gordon was close to perfect.
Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.
Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk
TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night: