The Oklahoma City Thunder are Coming of what is considered an impressive performance in a 111-102 win over the Grizzlies. The Thunder head into a very wet Memphis for a swing matchup with what has become a knockout, drag out matchup. Winner will assume home court advantage and have the inside track on the rest of the series.

I’m going to hit on a few keys that are important to the Thunder success to get the home court advantage back. Feel free to comment.

Bench play: James Harden, Nick Collison and Eric Maynor were instrumental in the win. The Thunder dominated the bench scoring, winning 48-39. The 3 big bench contributors went for 43 alone. It will be imperative that the bench will determining the outcome. With OJ Mayo coming off the bench for the Grizz, it’ll be tough to overcome The Memphis bench. Grizzlies won the bench matchup in the first game 27-16. I think which bench that is able to get going early will have the the upper hand in this one.

Turnovers: In game 1 the Grizzlies forced the Thunder into 18 careless turnovers. They turned the turnovers into 23 points. While the Thunder only forced 8 turnovers, for just 8 points. This was huge as Memphis was able to pull out a 13 point win. Game 2 was much different. The Thunder was able to force 16 Memphis turnovers, double from game 1. Which evened OKC’s total of 16 turnovers. However, it neutralized a big advantage that the Grizzlies had in Game 1. OKC doesn’t necessarily need to win the turnover battle, but they do need to break even. Allowing Memphis to be secure with the ball will not win this game. You must either of two things. A) Force the Grizzlies to turn the ball over equal or more than the Thunder. or B) NOT TURN THE BALL OVER.

Pretty simple.

Zach “Z-Bo” Randolph: Randolph did not score a basket in the second half. Finished the night 2-13 with 15 points and 9 rebounds. A complete 180 from Game 1 where he finished 12-22 for a game high 34 points and 10 rebounds. Nick Collison filling in extra duty for a banged up Serge Ibaka was able to force Z-bo out to the perimeter and take unbalanced shots. Z-Bo got to the line, but that has become common place. The Thunder will need to do this again. Pound a body against him. Do not let him get comfortable. Send him to the line if you have to. Do not let him beat you on his jump shot. One thing I’ve noticed about Randolph, is that he doesn’t really attack the basket. He likes to isolate his defender, pivoting in, forcing his defender back near the paint before he spots up with a decent jumper.

Russell “Honey Badger” Westbrook. Game 1 we saw bad RW, Game 2 we saw great glimpses of All-Star RW. I expect RW to bring his game in game 3. I do believe he’s reading the press clippings to his comparison to Stephon Marbury. Now, I firmly disagree. He settled down in Game 2 and allowed the game to come to him. He panicked at time and was back to forcing it inside. Looks like Memphis is collapsing down when he gets in the lane. He needs to learn to find the open man. Not just pile in there like a kid into a greatly raked pile of leaves. I provded a state. OKC is 35-10 when RW has more than 8 assists in a ball game. We won Tuesday despite that stat (six assists), It was his control of the game that allowed us to maintain that lead.

Not to mention his defense was just deplorable in game 2. Mike Connelly constantly made Russell Westbrook his bitch. Westbrook wasn’t physical enough. Connelly would push him back spot up. Come off a nice pick and roll then jumper. I don’t see Connelly hitting those same shots again. However, who’s going to stop him? Connelly was on FIRE until Ibaka put a body on him, injuring himself. After that Connelly went 1-4 from the field. Seriously, man up your defender RW.

Road environment: Some of you may be curious to what I mean here. However, look at how we did in Denver. Denver gave us the toughest road games since last season’s playoff losses to the Lakers. We’re lifetime 1-4 in road games while in OKC. Memphis has found out they have a professional basketball team in town and they’re rowdy and roaring to show the NBA that they’re not just some bandwagon fans. (Let’s be honest, probably good 75% of them are legitimate fans. However, that 25% will just make the Grizzlies organization a lot of money). San Antonio fan traveled to Memphis, I spoke to him on twitter, he provided this insight to the arena experience.

I heard the Memphis crowd, and it was deafening. I couldn’t hear myself think at times.

The Thunder will need to block out the sound. Kevin Durant mentioned the crowd noise level in Denver. That just played to the minds of the Nugget faithful. Their egos grew three sizes that day to some Nugget fans. I do believe they’ll be a raucous crowd as ever, I think this might be something we need to overcome before we can start thinking we’re a championship caliber team.

Overall I think the Thunder will split in Memphis. I think It’ll come down to a best of 3 series. If the Thunder come out and duplicate game 2, the Grizzlies might as well pack up.

Prediction: OKC 105, Memphis 97.

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Chuck Chaney

Founder & Editor-in-Chief.
Member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.