We’re two games into the Thunder-Grizzlies series and two years removed from the 2011 Western Conference semifinals matching the same two franchises. In a relatively rare sign of stability, each team starts four of the five starters it had in 2011, and OKC would be 5-for-5 if not for Russell Westbrook’s injury.
So what’s changed. How do the combatants compare to what we saw in 2011?
Kevin Durant: Better. Much better. Durant has gone from budding superstar to bonafide superstar. Durant now is an unstoppable force. The acclaimed second-best player in the world. Memphis is having many more problems with Durant now than it had in 2011.
Marc Gasol: Better. Again, much better. In 2011, Gasol was a solid center who made us realize that the Grizzlies didn’t get completely swindled in the Laker trade that sent Pau Gasol West. In 2013, Gasol one of the NBA’s three best centers and makes us ask if it’s the Lakers who were swindled.
Serge Ibaka: Better. He’s not necessarily playing that way in these two games, but Ibaka is better. A better shooter. A much better defender. Better shot-blocking instincts, though he had great shot-blocking instincts back then.
Zach Randolph: Worse. Not a lot worse. Only a little. But worse. Randolph was a total load in 2011; now the Thunder seems to handle him a tad better. Truth is, Randolph was the primary big man in 2011, with Gasol as sidekick. Now those roles are reversed.Randolph is still hard to handle down load, but he’s not the offensive threat he was.
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