May 3, 2011
Memphis on a mission
I wrote that I couldn't believe I was typing this when, in a rare move, I accurately predicted the Grizzlies would close out the Spurs. I'll use that same line when I say the Grizzlies will knock off the Thunder. (I can't believe I typed that.)
This is no joke. And neither is the Pau Gasol trade anymore. That move netted the Grizzlies Pau's brother, Marc, and the salary-cap space to extend Zach Randolph's contract. Game 1 basically looked like the Grizzlies threw the ball to Randolph in the paint and said, "Stop this." The Thunder couldn't.
Continuing the trend from the Spurs series, the Grizzlies racked up a huge 52-38 advantage in points in the paint. Tony Allen has added toughness to the Grizzlies. And Mike Conley didn't turn the ball over in 39 minutes, while Russell Westbrook coughed it up seven times.
The Grizzlies are on a mission.
Hitting the Gasol
Los Angeles Times
The Western Conference finals will be a family reunion for two Spanish brothers by the name of Gasol — with each duking it out down low for a shot at the NBA Finals. What fun.
I'll take the elder Gasol, Pau over Marc, in that matchup, but the fact I'm pondering it shows my faith in the Grizzlies, with their dominant inside tandem of Zach Randolph and the younger Gasol, to move past the Thunder in their second-round series.
Randolph is the NBA's hottest player. Marc Gasol is a 7-foot-1 force. The Thunder couldn't match them in Game 1. They won't all series.
Plus, with Mike Conley and crew, Memphis can run while pounding teams for 50-plus points in the paint.
You don't see that often. But the Lakers will, as soon as they dispatch the Mavs.
Thunder will reign
The Grizzlies are a great story, and their victory over the Spurs in the first round was no fluke. But even after winning Game 1 against the Thunder, the Grizzlies aren't advancing to the West finals. They're simply not as good as the Thunder.
The Grizzlies had only two days in between series and rode their spirited first-round upset into a spirited Game 1 upset. But when the series settles and adjustments are made, the Thunder's talent will prevail. Oklahoma City possesses the series' two best players — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook — and a nice collection of role players.
And even though they're young, the Thunder probably felt a sense of relief to be playing Memphis instead of San Antonio. But that false sense of security is over, and the Thunder now know they need to buckle down to defeat the Grizzlies.
Thunder too talented
If this were the NCAA tournament, I'd say it would be possible that the Grizzlies could advance to the Western Conference finals.
But it's not. It's the NBA playoffs, where it takes more than just a hot month of basketball to reach the championship. All great stories come to an end. While their series victory against the Spurs in the first round will go down as one of the greatest upsets in history, their run ends in the conference semifinals.
Memphis made things interesting by capturing Game 1 in Oklahoma City. Its string of surprise victories can last only so long. Eventually, Kevin Durant and the Thunder will come around and take control. They gave the Lakers all they could handle in last year's playoffs. Look for the teams to meet again this year in the conference finals.
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