Usually if you are the No. 4 seed sitting at home, you undoubtedly would be excited to see the eighth seed give you home-court advantage by defeating the No. 1 team. Not in this case. Oklahoma City got the worst matchup. Why? Because the Grizzlies have great size in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but also great perimeter defenders to cause trouble for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
We talk about the Lakers cruising, but how is this Memphis team an eighth seed with only 46 victories? Parity in the Western Conference will be around for a while and the Grizzlies will possibly be a Top 4 club next season once Rudy Gay is back in uniform.
This series is a toss up for many reasons, but the main one is both teams have never been here in the second round.
The Thunder have superstar power duo in Durant and Westbrook, but Memphis has stars of their own who will dominate the interior in Randolph and Gasol.
The battle between Randolph and future star Serge Ibaka will be tremendous. It will be interesting to see how Randolph deals with his tremendous shot blocking ability.
I am also looking forward to seeing how the officials allow the physical duo of Shane Battier and Tony Allen to defend Durant and Westbrook.
Both teams are big, but the Grizzlies are a tad tougher and so the question will remain... Can Kendrick Perkins stay out of foul trouble against Gasol?
Like I said, neither team has been this deep in the playoffs before and so it becomes a battle of nerves and composure.
Westbrook has been thrust into the spotlight in that regard. Hopefully he has finally realized the Thunder will never be his team and equal billing will not occur when Durant is your teammate.
He will have to be a point guard first and then in the fourth quarter allow the talented Durant to take over in order to win this series.
Oklahoma City should be able to take advantage of an emotionally drained Grizzly team with little rest. That in itself gives them a tremendous advantage to win the series.
The NBA is having a tremendous postseason and this series will be a large example of why.
Finally, I have a sneaky suspicion that some players on the Mavericks and Lakers are feeling like their series is the Western Conference Finals and the winner will have a cakewalk against the winner of Thunder vs. Grizzlies.
Be careful what you wish for because the winner of this series is more than capable of winning the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies will win if...
- Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol dominate the paint on both ends
- Shane Battier, Sam Young and Tony Allen can keep Kevin Durant below 25 per game.
- Mike Conley can control tempo and stay in front of Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder will win if...
- Russell Westbrook plays like he did pre-All-Star game.
- Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka stay out of foul trouble and control the boards.
- Their bench, led by James Harden, can score against the Grizzlies defensive-minded second unit.
This is very difficult, but obviously the Thunder will have an advantage in game 1 against a tired and emotionally drained Grizzly team playing on one day of rest. I love both teams and it's obvious this series will go the distance. My heart says Thunder because they have done it all year, but I can’t ignore the fact the Grizzlies have beaten all the top teams this season. Oklahoma City 3, Memphis 4.
SCHEDULE: May 1, May 3, May 7, May 9, May 11, May 13 and May 15 / Memphis won the regular season series 3-1.