Matchup: (7) Memphis Grizzlies vs Oklahoma City Thunder (2)
Tickets: Grizzlies vs. Thunder tickets
Regular Season Series: OKC won 3-1
Key Matchup: Kevin Durant vs Tayshaun Prince. There isn’t a per say Durant stopper on the Memphis Grizzlies, but the closest one to that may very well be Prince. During the regular season, when Prince was on Durant he only shot 40 percent from the field, 10 percentage points down from his regular season average of 50 percent. The key to beating the Thunder is containing Durant, or getting him off his game. Prince has shown the ability to do just that.
The Skinny: A rematch of last season’s Western Conference Semifinals in which the Grizzlies beat the Thunder will probably prove to be nothing like last year’s series. A year ago, the Thunder had to manage without Russell Westbrook. This season, Westbrook is probably the “freshest” version of himself that he’s ever been this late in the season. Memphis will look to slow down the game with their “grit and grind” philosophy, but Durant is on another level this season. It’ll be interesting to see if the Thunder dictate tempo or if the Grizzlies do. Based on just that, we’ll get a good indication on how this series will go — and how long.
Memphis will win if: The Pace is to their liking. The Grizzlies aren’t going to run anyone out of the building, much less the high-octane offensive-minded Oklahoma City Thunder. Memphis needs to play at a pace in which they can feed Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. If they can do that, they’ll be able to dictate this series.
Oklahoma City will win if: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have their way. There hasn’t been much that’s been able to stop Kevin Durant this season, much less when he has his sidekick (Russell Westbrook) in the lineup. OKC simply is going to win because they’re the better team. Durant has been the best player in the league this season, and it appears he’s on a mission. And that mission doesn’t end in April. It ends in June.
Prediction: OKC in five.