Memphis has become something of a mythological team.
Beating them suddenly sounds like a task of Herculean proportions, where one must battle a seven-headed hydra and Zach Randolph. Nobody — not even the legendary Tim Duncan — could slay the beast.
But the Oklahoma City Thunder are supposed to have the tools. They are supposed to be the better team. And two things are going to have happen if they are going to even this series — and they had better even this series, because if they head to Memphis down 2-0 they might as well try to slay a hydra.
One is Kendrick Perkins simply must play better. He was brought in to be the defensive enforcer but he let Randolph get the position he wanted and the result was baskets no matter what he did. As Randolph likes to get the ball 15-to-18 feet from the basket denying him position and the ball is hard, but he must be pushed out and his preferred angles cut off. Both Perkins and Serge Ibaka need not let the Grizzlies bigs get comfortable. Send late doubles from guards looking for steals. Make Randolph and Gasol pass. Make the Memphis perimeter players take on more of the offense.
Randolph is not going to be stopped totally — he’s always been able to score, from his days in Portland on. What is different in Memphis is he is disciplined. He’s not just taking bad shot after bad shot now. Maybe the Thunder can lure him into some bad ones, but for the most part they need to make someone else bat them.
The other key for the Thunder is Russell Westbrook must be better. The Grizzlies were the best team in the NBA at forcing turnovers this season, but Westbrook had seven. And hit just 9-of-23 shots. He had patches like that during the season but often they were masked by wins against lesser opponents. He must be more efficient, he must be smarter with the ball. He is not Derrick Rose — he has help, he has Kevin Durant. Look to take what the defense gives you, do not force what you want.
What does Memphis need to do? Keep doing what they are doing. They have been smart about going to their strengths and exploiting it this season. Find what works and keep doing it. Defend hard. Just keep doing all that.
Look for Oklahoma City to try and establish themselves as the more physical team. Maybe that will throw the Grizzlies off their game. Because the Thunder need to find something fast.
Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the Memphis Grizzlies had reached an agreement with longtime Miami Heat assistant David Fizdale to be their next head coach, replacing Dave Joerger. On Sunday, the Grizzlies made it official, announcing the move in a press release.
Here’s the official statement from Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace:
“We are pleased to welcome David to Memphis. After a comprehensive search process, and talking with a number of very bright basketball minds, we focused in on David and we are confident that he is the right person for the job. David’s achievements throughout his career, his reputation as a strong tactician, his leadership with player development, and his ability to communicate and build strong relationships with his players make him the clear choice to guide the Grizzlies on and off the court, as we move forward and collectively build on the consistent success we have attained over the last several years.”
Fizdale offered his own comments as part of the announcement:
“I am extremely excited to be in Memphis and really looking forward to building a legacy with this talented group of players. In my career, I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the greatest coaches and players in the NBA and am ready for this challenge. I am not only here to contribute to an organization that has built a history of winning, I am here to win it all and bring the wonderful people of Memphis their first Championship Parade down Beale Street. I am truly honored that Robert Pera, Chris Wallace and the organization felt that I am the right man to lead us forward and I would like to thank them for their confidence and this great opportunity.”
Fizdale had served as an assistant on Erik Spoelstra’s bench in Miami since 2008, and his now-former team offered their congratulations via Twitter:
ATHENS, Greece (AP) NBA stars Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks battled it out in Athens in a game of streetball Sunday, watched by a crowd of 5,000.
Played in an open court in Greece’s largest public high school, the “Antetokounbros Streetball Event” ended 123-123. No overtime was played.
Porzingis scored 21 points but was overshadowed by team member Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ older brother, who scored 69. The two had played for a few games together last season, when Thanasis was signed by the Knicks on a 10-day contract. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the other team with 64 points. The other players were a mixture of veteran pros and amateurs.
On Saturday, Porzingis and the Antetonkoumpo brothers were given a private tour of the Acropolis Museum.
The Warriors’ most important adjustment in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals didn’t occur on the court — it occurred on Klay Thompson‘s feet. Thompson scored a playoff career-high 41 points against the Thunder on Saturday to force a Game 7, and afterwards, he credited it all to a pair of Yoda socks from Stance’s Star Wars lineup.
From The Vertical‘s Michael Lee:
As he quietly got dressed, Thompson rolled up a pair of Stance socks with a cartoonish image of the green, pointy-eared Jedi master from Star Wars, Yoda. Thompson packed his lucky socks especially for Game 6, knowing he’d need something a little extra to fend off the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I brought my Yoda socks to bring out my Jedi powers,” Thompson told The Vertical after a performance in which the least heralded, but no less important, member of the Splash Brothers saved Golden State’s season.
Here’s a picture of Thompson wearing the socks, which are pretty sweet:
Thompson will need whatever special powers the socks gave him again on Monday, if the Warriors hope to overcome what was once a 3-1 deficit and advance to the Finals.
The NBA Finals schedule will not be determined until Monday, when the Warriors and Thunder play Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in Oakland. The Cavaliers already advanced to the Finals out of the Eastern Conference, but the dates of their home games are not set in stone: they’d have home-court advantage over the Thunder but not the Warriors.
On Sunday, the NBA’s official Facebook page jumped the gun slightly, listing the seven Finals games under their “Events” tab under the assumption the Warriors won Game 7. They later took the listings down.
Via SB Nation:
The mistake occurred when Ticketmaster, which controls that section of the league’s Facebook page, accidentally posted listings for Finals games under the premature assumption that the Warriors would win Game 7, and those listings were pushed to Facebook. Ticketmaster removed the listings when the error was discovered.
It was obviously an honest mistake, but if the Warriors win on Monday, this will do nothing to quiet the crowd that believes in some sort of conspiracy theory, however ridiculous that notion is.
For what it’s worth, ESPN also accidentally aired a commercial for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Cavs and Raptors, even though Cleveland has already closed out that series:
These things happen.