With a city's backing, Thunder roll

They shot a miserable 12-of-48 and had their shot blocked eight times in the first half, setting futility records with their 25 percent shooting and 34 points. They didn't make a shot outside the paint until the final two seconds of the half. Combined with the blocks, the bricked jump shots explained how the Grizzlies could miraculously have just one turnover yet give up 21 fast-break points.

Durant and Westbrook combined for 33 points in the first 24 minutes, and their speed and confidence had the Grizzlies on their heels. Until James Johnson hit that jumper, a 3-pointer, in the final seconds of the second quarter, Westbrook and Durant had outscored Memphis on their own in the half.

It's most likely the series actually started in the second half, when the teams played close and the Grizzlies were able to slow the pace and take advantage of their grinding defensive style. They made an admirable run, in fact, and crushed what was a 25-point lead down to just two points by forcing some turnovers to create some easy baskets and making a few jumpers.

Yet it never actually seemed like the Grizzlies would take control. Desperate to get back into the game and missing two rotation players as Nick Calathes started his drug suspension and Tayshaun Prince bowed out after four minutes with illness, Joerger played his front line 14 consecutive minutes in the third and fourth quarters.

He might've gone longer had Zach Randolph, who ended with 21 points but needed 21 shots, not picked up his fifth foul and been forced to the bench. The crowd had gone from loud and proud to genuinely worried, but Randolph, Conley and Tony Allen were wheezing by then. After committing just two turnovers in the game's first three quarters, the Grizzlies gave it away four times quickly in the fourth, mostly because fatigue was zapping their concentration.

"No question, they ran out of gas," Joerger said. "But we were on a run."

The fresher Durant, who ended with 33 points, and Westbrook, who ended with 23, combined for 20 points in the fourth quarter to end it. No matter what game-plan adjustments the Grizzlies make or how they handle the noise better in Monday's Game 2, Memphis doesn't have a realistic chance if they give up 70 points to Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who had 17 points and four blocks.

Ultimately, there was plenty for Memphis to build on considering they probably could not have played more poorly in the first half. Last season, after all, the Thunder won Game 1 and lost the series to Memphis. But this season, the Thunder are fully healthy and much deeper, as was displayed by a surprising 30 effective minutes from Butler off the bench. Pulling this upset will be much harder.

"[The Grizzlies] are obviously going to want to play better," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Winning is all that matters. It's the first team to four."

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 23396630.
Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...