Big Sunday in the NBA: OKC / Memphis Game 7, Chicago / MIA Game 1

It all comes down to this. Win or go home.  Who wants it more? 

These cliches and many others like them, while annoying, are to be expected frequently today from television pundits everywhere.  

Whenever Game Seven’s emerge, like today’s when Memphis travels to OKC for a winner moves on tip at 3:30, these are the things people say to describe the event. 

All true though I suppose, and after Memphis forced the issue with a Game 6 win on Friday we should have a good one today as a result. 

Kevin Durant v. Zach Randolph.  Mike Conley v. Russell Westbrook.  Tough, gritty, defense and inside play colliding with an young, emerging team built on star power.  A team originally from Vancouver going head-to-head with a team originally from Seattle for a right to play in the Western Conference Finals.  Should be fun. 

As will the 8pm game in Chicago, when the Bulls and Heat get underway for Game One of the ECF.  Not as cliche-filled of a match-up seeing as how it is only a Game One, but exciting nonetheless. 

I wish it started around 5pm ET though, but oh well.  I wasn’t up at 5 am tweeting about how excited I was for the game tonight like LeBron was this morning, so I should be able to make it to the end.  An end that would certainly produce more storylines should the Bulls somehow pull this one out.     

A primer of sorts on each game after the jump:

OKC / Memphis – 3:30 ET: 

Kevin Durant is coming in off his worst playoff performance of his life, while Zach Randolph comes in off one of his best. 

Durant went 3 for 14 in Game 6 and scored only 11 points after averaging 28 per game for the post-season.  Much of that is being attributed to early foul trouble, however I’m going to attribute a large portion of that to KD settling for too many threes. 

Of Durant’s 14 shots, 9 of those attempts were three-pointers.  Obviously he is an effective shooter most nights from the perimter, but if OKC is going to move on here Durant is going to need to be more aggressive attacking the basket.  He’s also going to need his PG, Russell Westbrook, to look to be a facilitator.

Westbrook is absolutely an effective scorer, and he’s certainly an explosive athlete.  That said, there is no way he should be taking more shots than Durant, arguably the best scorer in the NBA.  He has been though, you might’ve heard about that. 

Through six games, Westbrook has attempted 130 shots as compared to 111 for Durant.  He’s also turned it over about 5 times per game too (29 times this series).  He needs to be more efficient than that today for the Thunder to get this one.

Meanwhile, Grizzlies PG and OSU product Mike Conely has been the more effective ball-handler in this series by far, and they’ll need more of that from him today.  In actually more total minutes played that Westbrook this series (Conley: 236 minutes, Westbrook 226), Conley has turned the ball over only 14 times.  He also has totaled 40 assists so far, as compared to only 39 from Russell. 

For the playoffs he’s averaging 14.9 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per, and he will have to continue to be that type of game manager in the series finale for the Grizzlies to advance.

Most importantly though is Randolph.  He went for 30 and 13 last time out, has been arguably the MVP of these playoffs, and looks ridiculously tough to stop playing alongside Marc Gasol.  If he’s that type of beast today, it could very well be the 8th seeded Griz in the WCF.  

Bulls / Heat – 8:30 ET: 

I like to think Derrick Rose is capable of pulling this one out here but I really don’t see how he does it.  With the inconsistent production from Boozer due to a toe injury or whatever, there is no other option for Rose.  He must get 35 at least each night out, and he’s also gotta hope a Kyle Korver type guy can go Damon Jones for him and knock down a critical basket or two in the process. 

If the Bulls hope to make this a series though, a Game One win is a must in my opinion, and that could go a long way.  After the Heat beat Boston it kinda seemed like the path had been cleared for those guys, but it really could serve as an emotional blow to Miami if they open with a loss here after celebrating like they won the Super Bowl a few nights ago.  

In order to do that defense is critical, and the Bulls do have a couple decent possibilities on that end of the floor.  Luol Deng could slow down LeBron down some, and Bogans has a shot to do the same with Wade.  Not stop them, but slow them down a bit.  If they can both do that, and Rose explodes at home, they could get this one.    

It is traditionally tough though for a team with “one All Star” to beat a team with “three All Stars.”  This according to Brian Windhorst this morning who’s be up early tweeting statistical data in support of this arguement that didn’t really need data to support.

LeBron is expected to be one of those All Stars who will start on Rose primarily, however they plan to send a number of different looks his way throughout the game and series.  As much as I’d like to see Rose make this thing interesting, I think LeBron will be a tough cover for him. 

Rose is the quickest player in the NBA, but you can’t just get one step on LeBron to get by him.  With his propensity for chase-down blocks you need at least two to get enough distance to finish at the rim, and that might be asking a lot from the third year pro in his first Conference Final.

Then again, LeBron couldn’t cover Rondo last season either and Rose is quicker than he is, so who knows.  Oh and D-Wade’s from Chicago so maybe they’ll boo him like Philly does Kobe.  For some reason I’d appreciate that.

  • GhostToMost

    I never thought a team with Zach Randolph as their centerpiece could get within one game of a conference final. That guy is playing out of his mind.