Memphis At Oklahoma City
When: 9:30 PM
ET, Saturday, April 19, 2014
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Memphis Grizzlies eliminated an Oklahoma City team missing Russell Westbrook from last season’s playoffs and take aim at stunning the Thunder again when the first-round series opens in Oklahoma City on Saturday. Memphis took the Western Conference semifinals in five games last season as Westbrook’s knee injury turned Kevin Durant into a one-man gang. The seventh-seeded Grizzles won their final five games of the regular season while the second-seeded Thunder were 4-4 over their final eight games.
The Thunder posted the NBA’s second-best record despite Westbrook missing 36 games due to his balky knee and are expecting the first-round series to be quite a tussle. “It’s going to be a tough but fun series,” Durant told reporters. “We have a lot of history with these guys. We’re looking forward to getting the opportunity to play for a championship.” Memphis was struggling prior to the midway point of the season with Marc Gasol (knee) sidelined but went 33-13 after he returned to action. The late-season dash allowed the Grizzlies to reach the 50-win mark for only the third time in franchise history.
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, SportSouth (Memphis), FSN Oklahoma (Oklahoma City)
ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (50-32): The trio of Gasol, power forward Zach Randolph and point guard Mike Conley are used to waging battle with the Thunder, having surprisingly taken Oklahoma City to seven games in the 2011 conference semifinals before last season’s impressive series victory. Randolph posted 47 double-doubles while averaging 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds this season, while Conley averaged a career-high 17.2 points – with 26 20-point outings – to go with six assists. Gasol contributed 14.6 points and 7.2 boards while playing his typically solid defense and reserve swingman Mike Miller (7.1 average) finished the season strong by making 12-of-18 3-point attempts over the past four games.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (59-23): Durant is the favorite to win NBA MVP honors after leading the league in scoring with a 32-point average, the highest since Kobe Bryant averaged 35.4 points for the Lakers in 2005-06. Durant joined George Gervin and Allen Iverson with four scoring titles and only Michael Jordan (10) and Wilt Chamberlain (seven) have won more. Westbrook averaged 26.2 points in the six April games in which he played to raise his season mark to 21.8, and the fact that there are no back-to-backs in the postseason will allow him to keep his troublesome knee rested. Late-season addition Caron Butler (9.7) has bolstered Oklahoma City’s bench, which will also include guard Reggie Jackson (13.1) as long as Westbrook is healthy.
1. Durant averaged 30.8 points as Oklahoma City went 3-1 against the Grizzles in the regular season.
2. Thunder PF Serge Ibaka blocked 219 shots to join Dikembe Mutombo (five straight) as the only players to lead the NBA in total blocked shots in four or more consecutive seasons.
3. Memphis was 7-20 in the regular season when allowing 100 or more points.
PREDICTION: Thunder 105, Grizzlies 97
Stats and Records
Oklahoma City Off vs
106.2 Points For
94.6 Points Against