NBA Western Conference Playoffs Preview: #2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #7 Memphis Grizzlies

2014 NBA Playoffs
Western Conference Quarterfinals

#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #7 Memphis Grizzlies
Best of Seven Series Format 2-2-1-1-1
Series Price: Thunder -500 / Grizzlies +400 (odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook)

Game #1, Saturday, April 19, 2014, 9:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Chesapeake Energy Arena – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Opening Line: Oklahoma City -7
Current Line: Oklahoma City -7 1/2
Opening Total: 192 1/2
Current Total: 190 1/2
Opening Money Line: Thunder -325 / Grizzlies +265
Current Money Line: Thunder -360 / Grizzlies +295

Kevin Durant and the Thunder take on the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Quarters. Game #1 is Saturday night in OKC.
Kevin Durant and the Thunder take on the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Quarters. Game #1 is Saturday night in OKC.

The 59-23 Oklahoma City Thunder and 50-32 Memphis Grizzlies meet in the Western Conference Quarterfinals which begin Saturday night in Oklahoma City. The winner between the #2 seeded Thunder and #7 seeded Grizzlies will play the winner of the #3 seeded Los Angeles Clippers and #6 seeded Golden State Warriors in the conference semifinals.

Oklahoma City won the Northwest Division by 5 games over the Portland Trail Blazers. Memphis finished third in the Southwest Division behind the 62-20 San Antonio Spurs. The Southwest sent four teams to the playoffs including the Spurs and Grizzlies along with the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks.

The Thunder took 3 of 4 games against the Grizzlies this season. OKC won 116-100 in Memphis December 11, 86-77 in Oklahoma City February 3, and 113-107 also in Oklahoma City February 28. The only Memphis win came at home 90-87 January 14.

This is the third time in the last four seasons that these two teams have met in the playoffs. The Thunder beat the #8 seeded Grizzlies in 7 games in the 2011 conference semifinals after Memphis had upset #1 San Antonio in the first round. Last season, Memphis beat Oklahoma City in five games in the conference semifinals. OKC guard Russell Westbrook missed that series after suffering a season ending knee injury in the first round against the Rockets.

Memphis is coached by David Joerger. The Grizzlies have won 6 of their last 7 games, including 5 straight. The Grizzlies beat the Dallas Mavericks 106-105 in overtime Wednesday night to close out the regular season. Both teams came into the game tied for the #7 seed but having clinched a playoff spot already. The game would decide who would be the #7 seed and get to face the Thunder and who would be the #8 seed and face the #1 seed Spurs.  The Grizzlies are 36-43-3 ATS and the total is 39-43 this season.

Memphis is outscoring teams 96-95 this season. The Grizzlies are #3 in points allowed but #27 out of 30 teams in scoring. Memphis is shooting 46.4% from the field and 35.3% from 3 point range. The Grizzlies are #7 in field goal percentage. Memphis makes 74.1% of their free throws and is #23 in the league. Opponents are shooting 45% from the field and 35.5% from 3 point range. The Grizzlies are 12th or better in both categories. Memphis averages 42.4 rebounds per game and opponents average 39.2 per game. The Grizzlies are #19 in rebounding but lead the league in rebounds allowed. Memphis averages 21.8 assists, 13.7 turnovers, 7.7 steals and 4.6 blocks per game. Opponents average 19.9 assists, 14.2 turnovers, 7.2 steals, and 5 blocks per game.

Forward Zach Randolph averages 17.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. Point guard Mike Conley averages 17.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 6 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Center Marc Gasol averages 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game. Guard Courtney Lee averages 11 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1 steal per game. Guard Tony Allen averages 9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. James Johnson, Mike Miller, Kosta Koufos, Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis will also get significant minutes. Back-up point guard Nick Calathes was suspended 20 games by the league for violating the substance abuse policy and will miss the series. Guard Quincy Pondexter is out for the season with a broken foot.

Oklahoma City is coached by Scott Brooks. The Thunder won at home Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons 112-111. Many thought the Pistons would lay down in the regular season finale on the road after a disappointing season. Oklahoma City needed the win to secure the #2 seed in the Western Conference. However, Detroit led by 10 points in the fourth quarter before likely league MVP Kevin Durant took over for the Thunder. Durant scored 21 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter including the game winning dunk with 16.5 seconds left. It was the first time the Thunder led all day. The Pistons got a good look at a 30 footer at the buzzer but it bounced off the rim to secure the Thunder win. OKC is 43-37-2 ATS and the total is 42-40 this season.

Oklahoma City is outscoring teams 106-100 this season. The Thunder are #5 in scoring and #12 in points allowed. OKC is shooting 47.1% from the field and 36.1% from 3 point range. The Thunder are #6 in field goal percentage and #14 in three point shooting. Oklahoma City is second in  the league in free throw shooting at 80.6% from the line. Opponents are shooting 43.6% from the field and 35.8% from 3 point range. The Thunder are #3 in opponents’ field goal percentage. Oklahoma City averages 44.7 rebounds per game and opponents average 40.9 per game. The Thunder are #7 in rebounding and #3 in rebounds allowed. OKC averages 21.9 assists, 15.5 turnovers, 8.2 steals and 6.1 blocks per game. Opponents average 21.8 assists, 15.1 turnovers, 8.3 steals and 3.6 blocks per game.

Durant is having the best season of his already stellar career, having taken his game to another level. He won his fourth straight scoring title at 32 points per game, and also averages 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Point guard Russell Westbrook averages 21.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game. He is playing some of the best basketball of his career as well since he returned from knee surgery in late February. Forward Serge Ibaka averages 15.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1 assist and 2.7 blocks per game. Ibaka is second in the league in blocks.  Guard Reggie Jackson averages 13.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Forward Caron Butler, acquired at the trade deadline from the Milwaukee Bucks, averages 9.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Jeremy Lamb, Thabo Sefolosha, Derek Fisher, Nick Collison, Perry Jones, Kendrick Perkins, and Steven Adams will also get significant minutes in the rotation. Sefolosha and Perkins returned to line-up late in the regualr season after both missed significant games due to injury.

Memphis is 5-0 ATS in Conference Quarterfinal games and playing on 2 days rest, 4-0 in Saturday games, 3-1-1 overall, 10-4-1 after allowing 100 points or more, 2-5 against teams with winning records, 2-5-1 when the opponent allows 100 points or more in the previous game, 3-9-1 after a straight up win, 1-4 when the opponent scores 100 points or more in the previous game, 1-6 after failing to cover, 1-7-1 in road games, 1-8-1 against Western Conference teams, 1-8 against teams with winning home records, and 0-5 against Northwest Division teams. The Grizzlies are 6-2-1 ATS in the last 9 games overall against the Thunder, and also 6-2-1 ATS in the last 9  trips to Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City is 13-3 ATS in Saturday games, 8-2-2 at home, 8-3-1 against teams with winning home records, 12-5-1 against Southwest Division teams, 2-5 against teams with winning home records, 1-3-1 after failing to cover, 1-4 when the opponent scores 100 points or more in the previous game, 1-4-1 when the opponent allows 100 points or more in the previous game, and 1-6-1 on two days rest. The over is 14-5 in the last 19 games in this series in Oklahoma City. The favorite is 3-0-1 ATS in the last 4 games in this series.

Memphis has been a trendy pick to pull off the series upset against Oklahoma City. It is true the Grizzlies have been red hot, but Oklahoma City is finally completely healthy for the first time this season. This is a contrast in styles. The Thunder want to run and make it a high tempo game, while the Grizzlies would prefer to slow things down. Memphis has a definite size advantage with Randolph and Gasol, but I think Durant and Westbrook are playing out of this world right now. Oklahoma City wins game one en route to a hard fought series win in six games.

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