Oklahoma City Thunder: Nick Collison will be key against Memphis

Thunder forward will try to help corral the Grizzlies' Zach Randolph, who seems to get to every rebound.
By John Rohde Published: May 4, 2013

The Thunder was able to survive street ball against Houston, but can it survive a street brawl against Memphis?

OKC outlasted the youthful exuberance of the upstart Houston Rockets in the opening round, clinching the NBA playoff series 4-2 with a 103-94 victory at Toyota Center on Friday night.

Roughly 36 hours later, the defending Western Conference champion Thunder now must step into the ring against the Memphis Grizzlies for Round 2.

Tipoff for Game 1 is noon at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“Their styles of play couldn't be more different,” veteran OKC reserve power forward Nick Collison surmised of Houston and Memphis,

Collison very well could be the Thunder's most important defender against the Grizzlies, because roaming the paint is 6-foot-9, 260-pound(ish) Memphis power forward Zach Randolph, who has averaged a double-double in scoring and rebounding six of the last eight seasons.

Randolph is a load who comes fully equipped with rebounding radar. The 13th-year player out of Michigan State seems to get his mitts on every missed shot at both ends of the floor. If he doesn't grab the board, he incessantly keeps the ball alive by tipping it.

Randolph is a player who is best defended by making your presence felt. Collison makes constant contact with the two-time All-Star, so he knows exactly where Collison is … and vice versa.

According to NBA.com/stats, Randolph shot 37.3 percent from the field in three games against the Thunder this season and had a plus/minus of plus-23 (points) when Collison was on the bench.

When Collison was on the court, however, Randolph shot just 27.3 percent from the floor and had a minus-32 in the 44 minutes he and Collison shared playing time.

On March 20 in Memphis, Randolph shot just 6 for 23 from the field, committed seven turnovers and had 15 points in 42-plus minutes of play. Collison saw extended minutes, playing nearly 27½ minutes when he normally averaged 19.5.

Though Collison held his own in the battle, he lost the war as Memphis won 90-89 in overtime. That same night, Randolph collected 18 rebounds. Even when you think you've contained Randolph, you haven't.

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