Grizzlies vs Thunder – Series Picks & Predictions

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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Series Odds: Thunder -450 / Grizzlies +350

Why the Thunder will win the series:

Expected to win his first MVP award this season, Kevin Durant is still seeking his first NBA championship.

Winning his fourth scoring title, at 32.0 points, while shooting 50.3 percent overall, 39.1 percent from three-point range and 87.3 from the free-throw line, in four games versus the Grizzlies, Durant has averaged 30.7 points. Durant has proved this season, that even a great perimeter defender like Tony Allen can’t guard him. Even if the Grizzlies figure out a way to stop Durant, don’t forget about the Thunder’s number two option, Russell Westbrook, who has returned to his old form. Finally playing the majority of the game, Westbrook has averaged 32 minutes per game in the Thunder’s six games that were played in the month of April. The Thunder must take full advantage of Westbrook’s ability to turn this matchup into a fast paced series by taking the Grizzlies out of their element and forcing them into playing the type of game they are hoping to avoid. Although Westbrook can be reckless at times, driving out of control towards the basket, the Thunder must not fall into a half-court style tempo. Then and only then, are they in serious trouble.

If the Thunder continue to play stellar defense, and don’t allow the big men of the Grizzlies to beat them on the offensive glass, the Thunder should survive and advance. Last year, the Grizzlies were fortunate enough to face the Thunder without Westbrook. If the Grizzles were banking on Westbrook not being one hundred percent, they’re in for a long series.

Coming back to win 50 games following a 13-17 start, the Grizzlies had a superb season. But the Thunder are simply too talented, and too deep to see an early first round exit. Expect this series to go “12 rounds” but in the end, the Thunder deliver the knockout blow.

Why Memphis will win the series?

Don’t let the seeding fool you.

By no means are the Grizzlies your typical 7th seed. Led by Marc Gasol, who came back in January from a knee injury that sidelined him for seven weeks, Memphis is 33-13, which is a game better than OKC’s record over the same span.

In large part from the play of Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies are hitting their stride at the perfect time heading into the playoffs.

In order to keep pace with the Thunder, the keys for the Grizzlies are: 1) shorten the game by using all 24 seconds of the shot clock 2) grind out possessions 3) limit the Thunder in transition.

Averaging 16.2 fast break points per game (6th in the league), if Memphis allows the Thunder to get out in transition, they don’t stand a chance. Therefore, defensively, the Grizzlies will make it a priority to get back quickly and take away the easy fast-break points that the Thunder rely on to supplement Westbrook and their jump-shot-heavy offense. If the Grizzlies slow the pace, averaging a league low 93.5 possessions per game (slowest team in the league) and defend the three-point shot well (they ranked 12th in opponents’ percentage), the Grizzlies have a great chance of turning this into a defensive series. And if that happens, Memphis will pull off the upset.

There’s Courtney Lee and Mike Conley, who play pivotal roles. There’s Mike Miller’s ability to shoot from long range, and there’s Allen, who will be called upon to defend Durant. Randolph continues to be a double-double machine. Last season’s Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol continues to improve month after month.

Defeating the Thunder will be a team effort, but when you have a frontcourt duo of Randolph and Gasol, the Grizzlies are the ones who will be tough to beat.

In 2013, the Grizzlies dominated the Thunder in the playoffs, winning the series 4-1. And in 2014, even with Westbrook on the court for the Thunder, this series is going to go the distance, but the outcome is going to be the same.

Don’t only bet the Grizzlies to advance to the second round. Bet them to cover in Game 1 too.  Both are going to be winners. 

And if you have an extra few bucks to spend, take the Grizzlies moneyline. It’s certainly worth a shot.

Series Prediction: Memphis in 7 (including a Game 1 cover of +7 points)

April 18, 2014 by : Posted in Picks and Predictions No Comments
Adam Rosen

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Adam Rosen is a seasoned sports writer with special interests in Pro Football and Basketball. He has been picking sports games against the spread for years, and has posted a 56% win rate over his last 75 predictions.

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