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Grizzlies Get Game 1…In Oklahoma City

by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 1, 2011

Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s 114-101 Game 1 loss to Memphis.

  • So much for home-court advantage. The Thunder gave it up a minute and a half into the game. That’s when OKC lost its last lead and looked completely out of sorts from then on.
  • Not to worry, to regain home court the Thunder must win Tuesday and steal one of two in Memphis. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially after what we saw today. But it’s not impossible.
  • The most troubling thing about this loss is the Thunder didn’t come to play. There was no energy, no intensity and no sense of urgency or purpose from the start. I’m not quite sure how that can be when you’re in the second round of the playoffs.
  • I would like to blame it on these early Sunday starts. But Memphis had to take the court for tip-off at the exact same time.
  • Give Memphis credit. The Grizzlies did a great job of killing the Thunder’s fight. All 17 of the Grizzlies’ offensive rebounds seem to come right when the Thunder was about to make a run. Memphis would get a tip in or some kind of putback to keep the Thunder at bay. Those are deflating plays.
  • Don’t see how the Thunder’s defense could have been worse. At first, Zach Randolph was just making tough shots. He started 4-for-4 and almost each of those came with a hand in his face as he was falling away or twisting or turning in some kind of way. Then things just got ugly for the Thunder. OKC’s pick-and-roll coverage was rotten, the rotations were out of whack and the communication was next to non-existent.
  • All those defensive problems allowed Memphis to get whatever it wanted. No team should have as much success as the Grizzlies did tonight in executing their first option. That right there tells you how little resistance the Thunder put up today. The Thunder then got out-worked on second and third efforts, which explains the offensive rebounds and second-chance points. All of it was pretty disappointing.
  • No one summed this one up as well as Kendrick Perkins: “I think mentally they had it on their mind that they were going to come in and attack us today. And they did that.”
  • Kevin Durant called Randolph the best power forward in the league. “You can’t stop him,” Durant said. “He’s an animal.”
  • Don’t think you’d be shocked to know that Perk wouldn’t concede the same. “I don’t agree, but if he say so,” Perkins said. “I’m not going to give my opposing opponent the credit that I’ve got to go against. If Kevin says he’s the best power forward, that’s Kevin’s opinion. I think different.”
  • The Thunder had 10 more turnovers than the Grizzlies: 18-8. That hurt, especially since the Grizzlies got 23 points off the Thunder’s giveaways and OKC got just eight off Memphis’.
  • I’m not sure if the Thunder will be able to find an answer for Randolph and Marc Gasol. They combined for 54 points and 23 rebounds. I don’t expect it to be like that every game, because, again, they made some tough shots that were contested. But their skill set appears to be more difficult for the Thunder than originally thought — even with Perk and Serge Ibaka. Randolph’s mix of muscle and footwork in the post makes him virtually unguardable for Ibaka and Perk. And Gasol’s and Randolph’s ability to step out and shoot it make it tough for Perk and Ibaka to close out and contest shots.
  • Perk put this loss on his shoulders. He said it was his fault because the defense and rebounding starts with him. He went even further and explained that he lost his composure tonight and it tricked down to his teammates. “I’m the vocal leader on this team and probably one of the most experienced guys, the big brother on this team. I kind of let my emotions get the best of me tonight and it affected everybody else. Accountability is key, and I take full accountability of this game tonight because I feel like I let us down…You’re going to see a different Perk come Tuesday.”
  • Perk also admitted that Gasol’s jumper caught him off guard: “Him knocking down the 15-footer was surprising to me today,” Perkins said.
  • Perk made a great point about the Grizzlies’ role players needing to be cut off. Tony Allen, Sam Young, Mike Conley and Shane Battier combined for 44 points on 17 of 39 shooting. That’s too much, too efficient, if Randolph and Gasol are also going to have their way.
  • The Thunder’s role players have to be able to match their counterparts. Ibaka had a nice game with 16 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots. But no other player outside of Durant and Russell Westbrook scored more than five points.
  • James Harden was a no-show. Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he didn’t get much of an opportunity to get a game going offensively. To that I ask how much opportunity does he need? He played 24 minutes. Bottom line is he’s got to be more aggressive.
  • Let’s not overlook the performance from KD. Coming into this series, I think we’d all agree that Memphis’ duo of Allen and Battier could give Durant fits. Some of us thought that chess match was more of an advantage than the Grizzlies’ bigs versus the Thunder’s bigs. Boy, were we wrong. KD scored a team-high 33 points on 11 of 21 shooting with 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. He had three turnovers, but all of them came in the first half. If KD can keep this up I love the Thunder’s chances.
  • About the officiating, I’ll say this. The numbers in terms of foul calls and free throw attempts were about even. But there is a legitimate beef in this one for Thunder fans with how much went uncalled on contact the Thunder drew. That’s not an excuse. It’s a fact.
  • I don’t care that I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Nate Robinson might have been the perfect spark for this type of game. The Thunder struggled mightily to get to 47 points in the first half. Even though the defense was the biggest problem, a spark of any kind can spread and have a trickle down effect. Since the deadline-day trade, you knew there was going to come a time in the playoffs when the Thunder couldn’t score. The first half tonight was that time. I doubt we ever see Robinson in meaningful minutes though.
  • The Grizzlies’ ball movement is amazing. They share it unselfishly and their bigs have a knack for making not only the extra pass but the right pass. The Thunder has its work cut out.
  • One positive that you can take from this game is the Thunder was never really out of it, although it did feel like they never really were in it after a while. But after an awful first half, the Thunder trailed by just 10. OKC got as close as three before going to the fourth down by 13. And after trailing by as many as 17 in the fourth quarter, the Thunder got within seven three times, the final time with 3:10 remaining. That has to give Thunder fans hope.
  • The flip side is the Grizzlies were poised enough to take one flurry after another and respond by pushing their lead back to 10. It was very unexpected and impressive to see from a young team playing on the road.
  • I felt like I was watching the Thunder-Lakers series from last year. Only the Thunder was the Lakers and the Grizzlies were the Thunder. That might sound odd so let me explain. I’m not talking about personnel and matchups and that sort of thing. And, no, the Thunder is not a veteran, championship team. My point is most everyone (outside of Memphis) expects the Thunder to win this series. Yet, suddenly this up-and-coming team that came out of nowhere is giving the favorite a run for its money and making said favorite look baffled. From that standpoint, this felt exactly like Lakers-Thunder of yesteryear.
  • Wonder why Westbrook misses so many bunnies? Because he’s in love with the finger roll. Most of his missed layups have English on them. Guarantee you if he stops that his conversion rate at the rim will become higher.
  • The Thunder made it clear that everyone needs to have better focus and intensity in Game 2. Nick Collison said it best: “We’re down 0-1 so we should have it,” Collison said. “It just comes down to individual pride.”

-DM-

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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