After Memphis took care of business at home with two close victories over the Thunder, the Grizzlies lead the best-of-seven series three games to one as it shifts to Oklahoma City for Game 5 on Wednesday.
Every game in the series has been close in the closing minutes, so we should expect nothing less in one that has the potential to see the Thunder eliminated from the postseason.
The Grizzlies will need to bring the energy from the very start, or things could get out of hand quickly. Oklahoma City got out to a first half lead of 17 points in Game 4, and if that happens in this one Memphis will have trouble battling back on the road, when the Thunder will be playing to keep their season alive.
While the Thunder have needed to get contributions on both ends of the floor from a variety of players to keep each game in the series close, it’s always been about the play of Kevin Durant, and just how far he’s able to carry his team.
Durant was spectacular in the first two games at home, scoring 35 and 36 points, respectively. His numbers dipped to 25 and 27 in the two games in Memphis, although the bigger problem was the lower overall shooting percentage, along with the fact that the Grizzlies were able to shut him down when each of those games were on the line.
In Game 3, nobody on the Thunder could seem to hit a shot — the team managed just 36.4 percent shooting for the game, Durant was held to just 9-of-19. In Game 4, he was just 2-of-8 from the field in the fourth quarter, and 0-for-5 in the overtime session.
Durant will need to return to having a huge statistical impact on the game for his team to avoid being sent home for the summer.
On the Grizzlies’ side, they’ll need a strong overall defensive performance to limit the Thunder’s second and third options from getting going, and they’ll need a high-assist, low-turnover performance from Mike Conley, along with some dominant team rebounding in order to get the job done.
Memphis has shown it has enough to win this game on the road, and it should seize the opportunity — even while knowing that they would have another crack at it back home should things not go their way in OKC.