OKC – Griz Going the Distance: Game 7 Preview

It was a seesaw of a game that the Grizzlies tied the series on. Built on runs, both teams had their chances of putting each other away, but the Grizzlies took advantage on the back of Zach Randolph which brings us to Game 7.

Based on what has happened in the entire series, this game will be a dog fight. Both teams will be out there putting everything on the line to face Dallas in the Western Conference Finals. So what do they need to do to get this win?

Memphis

Give Z-BO the ball and get out of the way! In their losses this series, not including the triple overtime thriller, Randolph took less than 20 shots, 13 in Game 2 and 9 in Game 5 to be exact. The man cannot be stopped by anyone that OKC throws at him, Memphis have to give him the ball and let him go to work.

I liked the inclusion of OJ Mayo in the starting lineup for Game 6, it gave them an extra threat on offense and possibly caught the Thunder off guard. Along with Conley he gives Memphis another true outside scoring option.

Marc Gasol by his standards had a pretty quiet game statistically last night but it did not impact negatively on the Griz, hustle plays made up for not having his usual double-double. How ever he plays really can’t hurt their chances of winning.

Tony Allen is the spark for the Grizzlies, I’m expecting him to play big minutes, give them more second chance opportunities and win those 50-50 balls. Allen and Randolph are the guys that give this Memphis team its blue collar identity.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The big disappointment in Game 6 was Kevin Durant, he started the game hot but after getting two early fouls he couldn’t get it together. If this happens again Durant needs to get himself going by taking the ball to the hole and not settling for jump shots like he did last night.

As the floor general, Russell Westbrook has to see this and help his fellow superstar out. A lot of responsibility falls on Westbrook’s shoulders, much like Derrick Rose for the Bulls, he is one of their main scoring options. He has to lead the team, play smart basketball, limit turnovers and I would like to see his assist numbers up. I don’t think he utilizes his teammates enough, especially when he has someone like Kevin Durant beside him.

Finally OKC have to do something about Zach Randolph, the man is killing them one on one on and off the block. It could be too late to try new things but just for the first quarter of Game 7 they should see how he responds to help defense or a hard double team. We haven’t witnessed Z-BO’s passing ability out of the post these playoffs, he has just been a black hole, but a very good one.

Outcome

As good as the Grizzlies have shown they can be, it is Oklahoma City’s game to lose. More specifically Westbrook’s game to lose, unless Durant shoots 3 from 14 like he did in Game 6 all the fingers will be pointed at Russell. He needs to think less on being a scorer and more on being a point guard, he is still very young and will learn this as he gets more experience under his belt but lets hope he can learn quickly for Game 7.

I have been a fan of the Grizzlies and all that they have achieved these playoffs but I will have to side with OKC going through to the Conference Finals. However I would love to be proven wrong..

Until next time..

D.B.

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Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Bulls and Heat

The Eastern Conference Finals are now set as the Chicago Bulls eliminated the Atlanta Hawks last night, because of Oprah they will play Game 1 against the Heat on Sunday night.

There is no clear front runner in this series. Both teams slugged it out in the regular season, Chicago won all three games but their greatest margin of victory was only four points and I don’t expect it to be any different in this series.

Miami’s superstar duo are playing much better basketball at the moment than they did in regular season but Derrick Rose has proven that no one can defend him. It might be two against one in the superstar department however I believe that the game will not be won and lost there.

What will be the ‘X’ factor in this series?

Those “other guys” are going to play a huge roll for both teams and the Bulls have more depth. Deng, Boozer, Noah are Chicago’s main “other guys” as opposed to Miami’s Chris Bosh and on the occasion James Jones and Mario Chalmers. The main focus will be on both front courts because Chicago has the right personnel to punish Miami’s lack of interior presence. In their three regular season meetings Chicago out-rebounded the Heat by 10 and had 9 more second chance points. Bosh, Anthony, Howard or Ilgauskas will have to step up and limit the second chance opportunities the Bulls will get with Boozer, Noah and Asik hitting the glass hard.

Picking a winner is extremely difficult between these two teams. On one side you have two unstoppable players that will always have you in the game but on the other there is an MVP and a very good team backing him.

For me the series will ultimately come down to controlling the paint, as Chicago have a better front court I have to side with them.

Chicago Bulls in 6 games.

Until next time..

D.B.

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Miami Heat: Their Championship to Lose?

Last night the Miami Heat came one step closer to that first championship in LeBron James – Dwyane Wade era, closing out the series against the Boston Celtics on their home floor. After the final siren James and Wade celebrated the victory as if they had won the title, their jubilation was however somewhat fitting as the Celtics were responsible for eliminating the Heat and James’ former team the Cleveland Cavaliers from last year’s playoffs.

Winning this series against Boston has built up a lot of talk about how the title is theirs for the taking. If they can dispose of such a high class opponent in five games, who is going to stop them? James and Wade are unstoppable on offense, their defense has been very solid and the most consistent part of their game and those other guys (Bosh, Chalmers and Jones) have had good games every once in a while too.

So the Miami Heat are the 2011 NBA Champions, right? Wrong, the thing that set the Heat apart from Boston in this series is the ability to make plays in the fourth quarter.

Being a veteran side you would think the Celtics would excel down the final stretch of a game, however if you didn’t know they had a couple of finals appearances and a championship you would have thought they were a young and inexperienced team. Turning the ball over on bad passes, making bad decisions in transition and forcing up bad shots is very unlike the Celtics. I would like to say that Miami’s defense was so good that they forced them into these mistakes but in reality they were mostly unforced errors, it seems as though the age factor and a one armed point guard caught up to them. As a result the Heat’s superstar duo capitalized and made the right plays, much like Dallas did against the Lakers.

Related article: The Heat and Championships

Miami is yet to be truly tested, I believe that next round’s match up against the Bulls or the Hawks will bring out their best and their worst.

Of all the teams that have exited the playoffs, their greatest flaws were exposed and exploited. Miami hasn’t come up against a team that has been able to successfully do that. In Game 3 Boston showed us that Miami is lacking when it comes to their front court, Garnett was way too dominant for them to do anything about it.

It will be up to Boozer, Noah and Asik or Horford and Pachulia to control that paint and hit Miami where they are weakest. Until that happens the Heat will be too hard to stop.

Until next time..

D.B.

Do you have thoughts on this topic? Reply in the comments section. We are now on Facebook click here to visit and ‘like’ our page. Follow us on twitter @hoopsweblog and subscribe to get regular updates.

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