Memphis advanced to the Western Conference Semis for the first time in franchise history, their opponent will be the up and coming Oklahoma City Thunder following OKC’s 4-1 series win over the Denver Nuggets.
This series will feature two of the younger and more entertaining teams to watch in the NBA…
How does the match-up look?
IN THE BACKCOURT:
GRIZZLIES will feature Mike Conley Jr. and Sam Young as the starting guards for Memphis. Conley proved his worth in the San Antonio series as he matched up vs veteran point man Tony Parker. The 4-2 series victory over the Spurs saw numerous contributions from just about everyone in a Grizz uniform. Due mostly in part to the play of Conley at the helm. He averaged more than six assists per game in the series while also pitching in 14.3 ppg. Sam Young became an unsung hero in the final two games in the series as his numbers grew in his contributions in games five and six. Combined in those two games in chipped in 27 points and 7 rebounds.
THUNDER will put their trust in the recently “trigger happy” Russell Westbrook. I don’t say trigger happy as a knock to Westbrook, because make no doubt about it… he can put up numbers in a hurry. In a series where OKC blew out Denver in all but game 4 of the series, he was a major contributor. He scored a combined 67 points in the final three games of the series while also averaging just over 6 rebounds in each game. During the season, he played quarterback for the Thunder dishing out 8.2 assists per game. If there is a weak point in the Thunder’s starting five, it lies in Thabo Sefolosha. His career numbers include averaging less than 6 PPG, 1.5 APG, and 3.8 RB.
IN THE FRONT COURT:
GRIZZLIES rely heavily on the production out of Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph. The “Big 3” of the Grizz contribute not only on the scoresheet, but they are a mainstay in the eyes of the fans and in the locker room as the heart and soul of this team, as was evident in the SAS series. In every game in the first-round series, Allen snagged at least one rebound, steal, and field goal. Gasol got off to a fast start in the 2011 Playoffs grabbing 24 points and 9 rebounds in game one followed by 17 rebounds and 12 points in game two. He nearly averaged a double-double in the final four games. Randolph posted 20+ points in four out of the six games vs the Spurs. He controlled the paint as the series progressed averaging just over 9 rebounds while also sharing the wealth sending out over 3 assists per contest.
THUNDER added former Celtic Kendrick Perkins as their big man paired alongside Serge Ibaka in the heart of their paint. Perkins struggled to get going in the series vs Denver following a MCL sprain at the end of February. The 6’10” big man averaged a small 5.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Ibaka leads the Thunder in rebounds and blocks. He averages 11 rebounds along with almost five blocks each time out, thats more than double the blocks Grizz leader Gasol averages. Last but not least we focus on Kevin Durant or a.k.a. “Durantula”. He scored 162 points in five games vs Denver including two 41 point performances. Durant is an out and out scorer and it will be interesting to see if the Grizz try to shut him down or if they will allow him to get his points while limiting others.
Brennan Somers is a regular contributor to Memphisport. You can follow him on Twitter @brennansomers. For more live tweets during Grizzlies games follow @memphisport, @douggillon, @cerrito, and @chasingphoto.
Story photo by Chase Gustafson.