Going in, we knew this would be a tough series. Memphis has their short-comings, but they do two things extremely well that make them a tough out: they play defense and they play as a team. We’ve seen both of these qualities exhibited in the first two games. Even when Memphis got down by 22 at the half in Game 1, they never abandoned their principles and pulled within two points before tiring out at the end. In Game 2, Memphis’ defense made life for the Thunder miserable, but it was Memphis’ offense that came alive. The team that scored 96.1 points per game in the regular season, erupted for 111 points in the second game. Many will look to the Thunder’s offense for adjustments in Game 3, but the key will be the Thunder’s defensive adjustments.
3 Defensive Adjustments
1. Go Over the Screens – Of all the teams to go over on screens in the Western Conference playoffs, this would be the best team to do this against. Mike Conley and Ben Udrih are not willing 3-point shooters and are more comfortable on the move towards the basket. But instead, the Thunder keep going under the screens and allowing the Memphis guards to move towards the basket. This causes the defense to collapse and puts it on skates. If the Thunder perimeter defenders are able to stay in front of the drives, this will go a long way in preventing the slew of points in the paint.
2. Don’t Lose Your Man – The Thunder got caught ball watching a couple times in the game, and it cost them. Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince aren’t necessarily great offensive players, but if you give them an open look near the basket, they’ll make it a high percentage of the time.
3. Rebounding – One of the big adjustments the Grizzlies made was getting back on defense after every shot in order to stop transition. If the Grizzlies are going to do that, then the Thunder cannot allow them to get 12 offensive boards, three of which were in the overtime period and led to four extra points.
3 Offensive Adjustments
1. Bench – If the Thunder are to win, they are going to need more than 14 points from their vaunted bench unit (which consequently, was the same amount of points that Beno Udrih scored). Derek Fisher and Caron Butler only combined for one 3-pointer on four attempts and Reggie Jackson looked like a shell of himself. Also, Steven Adams would have probably helped on the big boys from Memphis. Hopefully, the bench comes out more aggressive in Game 3.
2. Spacing – The Grizzlies like to crowd the floor with their big men. The Thunder were caught too many times either having their pick and rolls iced or picking up their dribble and not being able to find their intended target (usually Durant). The key will probably be Ibaka. If Ibaka can hit that mid-range jumper, it may cause the defender to lay off the guard and stay on Ibaka. Once that happens, Durant, Westbrook, or Jackson will have the space necessary to operate in the paint.
3. Kendrick Perkins Pick – You want to get Tony Allen off Kevin Durant? Have him meet Kendrick Perkins. Nothing malicious, but enough to send a message.