Sunday, May 15, 2011
Griz-Thunder: Seven Game 7 tidbits
By John Hollinger
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- In the midst of all the "no tomorrow" cliches and whatnot heading into Game 7, here are seven actual, interesting facts to chew on ahead of Sunday's Game 7:
* Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said he'll again start O.J. Mayo at shooting guard. Hollins and the Grizzlies' players all said the spacing it provided for Zach Randolph was crucial in Game 6, because the Thunder have to respect Mayo out to the 3-point line.
* In the first half of Game 6, Shane Battier caught the ball at the high post and hit a cutting Mayo for an easy basket on a play he brought with him from Houston, as our David Thorpe noted immediately on Twitter. "It only works once a game, but it always works," Battier said.
* In terms of big-game experience, it's relatively even. Each side has three rotation players with Game 7 experience (Battier, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen for Memphis; Kendrick Perkins, Nazr Mohammed and Daequan Cook for Oklahoma City).
Each side also has two key players with experience in big, single-elimination international games. (Marc Gasol and Battier for Memphis; Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for Oklahoma City). In the one-and-done scenario of college hoops, five Grizzlies (Mike Conley, Allen, Randolph, Battier and Darrell Arthur) played in the Final Four, while only the Thunder's Nick Collison, Mohammed, Westbrook and Cook can say the same.
* Allen has guarded Durant most of the series and forced him to shoot 43.2 percent from the field, but said he hasn't shouted "He with us"once -- something he commonly says to distract shooters he thinks aren't struggling . "I can't do that with him," Allen said. "He definitely not with us."
More notable, perhaps, is that Durant has also been unable to set up teammates. In the series Durant has 111 field goal attempts and only eight assists, or one dime for every 13.9 shots -- nearly double his regular-season rate of 7.2. But Allen and Battier, the two prime defenders, wouldn't say they had him frustrated, even though he visibly seemed that way at times in Game 6.
Two potential adjustments for the Thunder are 1) to play Durant at the 4 -- which was devastatingly effective in the second quarter of Game 4 -- or 2) to play Kendrick Perkins fewer minutes at the expense of a better mid-range shooter such as Nick Collison. Either tactic would eliminate some of the off-ball double-teaming that reduced Durant's touches in Game 6.
* Memphis watched film but didn't practice before boarding the plane for Oklahoma City on Saturday. "I don't know what we would do at practice," Hollins said. "We've got about six guys that probably wouldn't practice after last night. It's that time of the season. We're playing the same team that we've played six times already."
* James Harden has taken half his shots from beyond the arc and half from inside. One might suggest a different mix based on the results. For the series he is just 6-for-26 on 3s; but on 2s he's 18-of-26 and has 27 free throw attempts, with 26 makes.
* Since banging his thumb in Game 6 of the San Antonio series, Darrell Arthur has struggled mightily with his normally accurate mid-range game. Arthur is only 6-of-18 on shoots outside 10 feet in this series and has only converted once beyond 15 feet; at times he's seemed reluctant to pull the trigger or stepped on rather than shooting off the catch. In the regular season he took nearly half his shots from beyond 15 feet and hit 39.0 percent; he's only tried eight in six games against the Thunder and made only one.