OKC Thunder: Grizzlies' lack of depth showed in Game 1

An advantage that appeared to favor the Thunder on paper played out before our eyes in the Thunder’s 100-86 win Saturday, and it now stands as perhaps the most significant key to this series as the teams get set for Game 2 on Monday night.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: April 20, 2014

Memphis coach Dave Joerger made the first critical decision in this chess match we call playoff basketball.

He made his move, and perhaps tipped his hand, just 36 minutes into Game 1 against the Thunder.

Joerger rode his starters for the first 14 minutes of the second half, relying on them to dig the Grizzlies out of a 25-point, first-half hole.

And it worked.

Memphis cranked up the intensity and mounted a remarkable rally, closing within two points inside the final nine minutes.

There was just one problem.

The Grizzlies got gassed and had nothing left in the tank to finish the job.

Joerger admitted as much.

“No question,” he said. “But I thought we were on a run. I didn’t know where else…”

Joerger stopped in mid-sentence. He changed course instead of conceding he was out of options.

“We had a little bit of a rhythm,” he said.

An advantage that appeared to favor the Thunder on paper played out before our eyes in the Thunder’s 100-86 win Saturday, and it now stands as perhaps the most significant key to this series as the teams get set for Game 2 on Monday night.

Depth.

The Thunder has it. The Grizzlies don’t.

Memphis’ second unit took an unexpected hit on the eve of this series when backup point guard Nick Calathes was slapped with a 20-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. Though he’s not considered a threat on his own merit, his absence triggered a costly trickle-down effect. Starting small forward Tayshaun Prince then played only four minutes while dealing with dehydration, which left an already-sketchy second team even thinner.

More importantly, it left the plodding Grizzlies hard-pressed to keep pace with a Thunder team looking to dictate the tempo and turn this series into a track meet.

“There were times throughout the game where we sensed that the pace that we’re capable of playing at is difficult for them to keep up with,” said Thunder guard Derek Fisher.

That advantage manifested itself in many ways.

With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook resting to start the second quarter, an all-reserve Thunder lineup pushed OKC’s lead from 13 to 20. During the 11-4 spurt, Reggie Jackson took the baton from Westbrook and ran it down the Grizzlies’ throats, scoring or assisting on nine of the Thunder’s points.

“I don’t think they had a turnover as a group,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks of his second unit. “That’s solid basketball.”

Oklahoma City also scored 21 of its 32 fast-break points in the first half. It helped the Thunder take a 22-point lead into halftime. When the Grizzlies clawed back, cutting it to 74-76 with 8:46 remaining by taking advantage of Thunder turnovers, defensive breakdowns and a drop in intensity, Memphis had nothing left to get over the final hump.

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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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