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OKC Thunder: Thunder defense focuses on stopping Memphis' Mike Conley

Don't be surprised if defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha gets a crack at stopping Conley.
BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: May 9, 2013

/articleid/3808119/1/pictures/2049367">Photo - Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) defends Mike Conley (11) of Memphis in the second half during game one of the Western Conference semifinals between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA basketball playoffs at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, May 1, 2011. Memphis won, 114-101. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) defends Mike Conley (11) of Memphis in the second half during game one of the Western Conference semifinals between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA basketball playoffs at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, May 1, 2011. Memphis won, 114-101. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD

While the Thunder's foul-plagued frontcourt did what it could to contain the formidable inside tandem of 7-foot-1, 265-pound Marc Gasol and 6-foot-9, 260-pound(ish) Zach Randolph, it was the 6-foot-1, 185-pound, left-handed Conley who essentially did as he pleased in the final period of Game 2.

If OKC bigs were slow to hedge on Memphis pick-and-roll plays, Conley capitalized on open paths toward the basket. If Conley's path was blocked, he fed his powerful frontcourt or pulled up for open 3-pointers.

“He got too many paint opportunities initially,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He's a good player. We knew they going into the series and he's played well the last few years. He's a problem that we have to make sure we control. … We have to do a better job on him.”

For this reason, look for 6-foot-7 defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha to take a crack at defending Conley in Game 3, which will tip off at 4 p.m. Saturday at FedExForum in Memphis.

Sefolosha's 7-foot-2 wingspan helped flip momentum in last year's Western Conference Finals against San Antonio when he switched to defend All-Star point guard Tony Parker, and Brooks is hoping to wreak the same havoc this series.

Sefolosha can't defend Conley alone, however, and will require some help from bigger Thunder teammates.

“He's aggressive, and their big guys get so much attention that there's opportunities for him (Conley),” said OKC reserve forward Nick Collison, who fouled out of Game 2 in just 15:22 of playing time.


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