If the Pattern Holds: As I've already written, the first two games in this series have mirrored the first two games in the San Antonio series. If the pattern holds, then Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol (42 points on 15-34 shooting in Game 3 vs. the Spurs) will settle into a good but not dominant level of production and we'll be looking at a tightly contested game that could swing either way down the stretch. Though hopefully, this time, it won't take a Zach Randolph three off a broken play to seal victory.
Extra Possessions as X-Factor: All season, the Grizzlies have overcome their shooting deficiencies and mediocre field-goal percentage defense by racking up extra possessions — offensive rebounding, forced turnovers, taking care of the ball. Against a Thunder team where Kevin Durant can get 30 points against even good defense, that might be even more important.
So far this post-season, the Grizzlies are 3-1 when they win the turnover battle and 2-2 when they don't. They won it big (-10) in winning Game 1 at Oklahoma City and lost in Game 2 when the turnover differential was even. This will bear watching today.
The Bench Battle: The Grizzlies bench was outclassed in Game 2. Coming home offers better hope in this area, however. Rookie backup point guard Greivis Vasquez scored 20 points and notched 9 assists in three home games this postseason. In five road games, he's scored 9 points with 8 assists. Similarly, Vasquez's frequent off-the-bench alley-oop buddy, Darrell Arthur, has had his strongest games at home, shooting 50% or better in all three home games while doing so only once in five road games. The bench could be the difference maker today.
Appreciate Durant: This is for everybody fortunate enough to be seeing today's game in person, especially in the lower bowl. Cheer your team. Boo the other team. But take a second to savor seeing Kevin Durant up close in a playoff game. The young Thunder forward is a scoring prodigy and a joy to watch. He's big time. Don't be surprised if he goes supernova one game this series.
Hostile Environment: The crowds in Oklahoma City were large and loud. But they weren't quite at the level of raucous energy and creativity displayed by Memphis fans in the first round. Memphis fanned-up big time for the Spurs, and the home crowd was almost certainly a contributing factor to the team's 3-0 home playoff record so far.
I would expect no less spirited a performance today. The Thunder don't provide quite as many obvious targets at the Spurs, but I have faith that our home crowd will figure it out. Here's a start:
Game tips at 4 p.m. today, with the broadcast on ESPN. I'll be down there a couple hours early and will be chiming in throughout the day and night via my @FlyerGrizBlog Twitter feed. Check back here a couple of hours after the game for a full post-game report.