Two teams that weren’t in the best on shape on the NBA Finals odds just a week ago are both smiling and sitting pretty right now. The Oklahoma City Thunder have to love this matchup against a bunch of Memphis Grizzlies that just have to be happy to still be alive after becoming the fourth No. 8 seed to ever upset a No. 1 in the first round of the playoffs.
Series Trends and History
The Thunder have to be a bit scared over how poorly they actually played in this season series. All of the meetings came from the beginning of January through the beginning of March, which at least should let OKC’s NBA betting fans relax just a bit knowing that Kendrick Perkins wasn’t in the fold for any of the games. Still, the Grizzlies came here to the Ford Center back in February and posted a 105-101 win in overtime as 7.5 point underdogs, and they went 3-1 SU and ATS in the season series.
The bad news for Memphis bettors though, is that this is the only time since 2008 that the Grizzlies have either won or covered a game in the Sooner State, something that doesn’t bode well for the rest of this series.
Keys to the Series
Key 1: Containing Durant – There are no two ways around this fact: Kevin Durant is really, really, really good. Amongst players that are still left standing — and there are a heck of a lot of good ones out there — none are averaging more points per game in the second season than the 32.4 that the former Texas Longhorn is putting on the board. Of course, this did come against a Denver Nuggets team that really was never all that great defensively, but that’s still a huge number that cannot be ignored. There really aren’t great defensive matchups for Durant in this series either for Memphis, which means that the key to slowing Durant might be forcing him into bad situations and matchups defensively.
Key 2: Heart and Hustle – Ah yes, the old slogan of the Orlando Magic from back in the day… The Grizzlies have sort of adopted that right now, as they don’t have the talent to match up with some of the best teams in the Western Conference even with Rudy Gay in the fold, let alone when he’s out nursing an injury. Memphis was able to beat the San Antonio Spurs by taking control of the hustle stats in the game and simply outworking them. That’s what it will need to do again in this series. The problem though, is that the Thunder have a team that is much more suited to play well in this situation. Oklahoma City certainly got a lot tougher with Perkins and Nazr Mohammad on the court, and that could make all the difference, not just in this series, but in the rest of the playoffs as well.
Key 3: Believing – Neither one of these teams has ever been to this point, and there really isn’t a heck of a lot of playoff experience on either side. The team that might beat the NBA series odds could be the one that believes that it deserves to be in the Western Conference Finals and believes that it will beat either the Dallas Mavericks or the Los Angeles Lakers. We don’t really know what the Grizzlies have in this department after beating the Spurs last round, but we know that Durant and Russell Westbrook are never short on confidence.