Pete's Perspective: Game 2 adjustments
In the wake of the Grizzlies’ stunning-in-its-thoroughness 114-101 beating of the Oklahoma City Thunder, it’s widely anticipated that the Thunder will have to come up with some defensive adjustments to deal with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Single coverage by Kendrick Perkins wasn’t very effective against Randolph, who’s seen just about every defensive coverage in the book this season.
“We’re expecting them to pack the paint,” assistant coach Johnny Davis related to me at this morning’s shootaround. “We also expect them to double Zach in the post. They may even try to run a guy at him to get the ball out of his hands.”
While Randolph may be unconcerned about what defense the Thunder throws at him, the Grizzlies spent the majority of yesterday’s practice and today’s shootaround working in some wrinkles. “The difficulty in defending us is that we are not accommodating in putting our post people in positions where they can easily be double-teamed,” explained Davis. In other words, spacing will be of paramount important for the Grizzlies tonight. Poor spacing will allow double teams to easily form; good spacing will cause defenders to have a split second of hesitation or doubt in their minds as to whether or not they should double.
And that second of hesitation or doubt provides all the opening that Zach or Marc needs to make a play.
“We know they’re going to do something different (defensively),” said Lionel Hollins. “We’re going to play our same game. That’s who we are.”
As is his custom, Hollins didn’t want to buy into the furor over Russell Westbrook’s seven turnovers in Game 1 or his spotty shot selection or the Thunder’s adjustments in general. “The kid was their second leading scorer. I’m not sure what people want. He’s been a high turnover guy.” Nor did he express concern over how the Thunder would bounce back from what was—at least for them —a stunning loss on Sunday. “We still have to defend, rebound, get back and have low turnovers,” said Hollins, deflecting a question about what most presume will be a somewhat different Thunder team coming into Game 2.
Davis amplified Hollins’ sentiments: “We’re preparing for a much more physical game. We just have to stay solid.”
As for defending Kevin Durant, Davis was adamant that the Grizzlies be physical and keep Durant off his favorite spots on the floor and to “make the game as hard as possible for him.” The Grizzlies have done a good job of that so far, but how this game will be officiated will have a lot to do with Durant’s performance. If the referees let the teams play physically, that’ll favor the Grizzlies. On the other hand, if touch fouls are called on Durant drives, he could go for big numbers, which is Memphis’ greatest fear. Thirty points is one thing. Forty or forty-five is an entirely different issue.
When I asked Davis if this was the best the Grizzlies have played this season, he hesitated briefly, then said, “We are playing at a very high level, but I think we can still play better. We’re sharing the basketball, we’re playing unselfishly, we’re taking care of the ball and we’re rebounding.”
It’s obvious the Grizzlies are pleased, but not satisfied with their performance so far. They’ve won one game in the series and the common theme among the boys in blue is that they’re not done yet.