There were plenty of stretches where the Grizzlies played just fine, especially defensively, in their Game 1 loss to the Thunder. Overall, the problem for Memphis was that they continually went away from what’s made them successful to this point in the postseason.
There’s a short list of adjustments the Grizzlies need to make in order to get back on track and get a road win over the Thunder in Game 2 of the series on Tuesday night. It starts with Mike Conley, whose improvement this season has been one of the main catalysts for the Grizzlies offensively.
Conley was just 5-of-15 from the field in Game 1, with three assists and two turnovers. He shot five three-pointers and made just one, and as a team the Grizzlies put up 19 shots from three-point distance.
This plays right into what the Thunder are trying to do defensively. They want to pack the paint and force Memphis into outside shots, an area which was not their strength during the regular season. The Grizzlies were dead last in three-pointers attempted per game this year, and ranked just 24th in the league in three-point shooting percentage.
Conley needs to use his dribble penetration to get inside and force the likes of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins to come over and help on him defensively to open things up a little for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. When Conley does choose to shoot, he needs to do so aggressively on drives, or on mid-range jumpers after gaining some space from his defender. In short, Conley needs to be more disruptive in running the Grizzlies’ offense as he was in his brilliant first round performance against the Clippers.
On the defensive end, the Grizzlies need to find a way to make sure that the Thunder don’t get a second strong individual scoring performance beyond the one that’s virtually guaranteed from Kevin Durant.
Kevin Martin torched Memphis for 25 points in Game 1 on 8-of-14 shooting, while getting to the free throw line seven times. Memphis can’t allow Martin to get going, and would do well to try to get stellar perimeter defender Tony Allen more minutes than the 20 he registered in the first game of the series. Expect a lot more of Allen defensively in Game 2, as long as he remains under control on the offensive end at the same time.
Finally, Memphis typically wins the games in which it wins the rebounding battle. The Grizzlies kept Perkins and Ibaka in check in Game 1, but allowed Durant to grab 15 boards, while Martin grabbed seven of his own. They’ll need to do a better job of team rebounding once Gasol and Randolph put a body on the bigs of OKC, and not allow the wing players to creep in and steal those rebounds.
The Grizzlies should be the better team in this series over the long haul, as long as they play to their strengths. Durant will get his; Memphis just needs to make sure to limit everyone else, while doing what’s gotten the team here on the offensive end — instead of letting the Thunder dictate how those possessions play out.