Nick Calathes? Really? Really?
Would not have been my first guess this series for a 20-game suspension for a controlled substance, no sir.
I mean, you've got Kevin Durant, who surely must be on something to be able to go-go-go like the Energizer Bunny for 45 minutes every game, right? And if you noticed, after picking up 14 technicals through the first 60 games or so, he didn't get any the rest of the way. What's got him feeling so mellow all of a sudden?
Then there's Scotty Brooks, who plays Durant 45 minutes a night. You're telling me that's the work of a sane mind? I think not.
Russell Westbrook? Kendrick Perkins? Zach Randolph? Tony Allen?
I mean seriously, Tony Allen? Come on.
Nope, instead it's Calathes who was flagged for allegedly being hopped up on goofballs. Makes perfect sense.
Anyway, as much as I'd love for the Grizzlies to shock the world, I fear that the stars won't align quite so perfectly two years in a row. More likely than not, the Spurs are gonna have to do the dirty work themselves. And by "dirty work" I mean launching Patty Mills from a catapult-like contraption toward Westbrook's knee.
For the time being we'll have to get our jollies in the futile hope of Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Z-Bo grittin' and a-grindin' their way down low, doing their best to siphon a few more drops out of Durant's googolplex-gallon gas tank. (Seriously, he's not human. I'm convinced we can solve the world's energy crisis just by sticking a few tubes into him, sucking out his precious Midichlorians and using them to power the solar system.)
Is there any way, aside from unexpected injuries, for the Grizzlies to pull off the upset? Well, maybe if Brooks can be suckered into playing Perkins a whole bunch, but I doubt even he'd be so foolish. On the Simmons podcast Zach Lowe raised an excellent point, explaining that even though the ideal time for the Thunder to go small and play Durant as the stretch four would be the second that Memphis substitutes either Gasol or Randolph out of the game, that Grizzles coach Dave Joerger could bypass that by playing both of them the whole first quarter, since Durant usually subs out for the first few minutes of the second period. However, as I mentioned above, he plays 45 frickin' minutes, including the entire second halves of close games, so at some point he'll be in there when the Grizzlies are missing one or both of their main bigs.
Oh god it's going to be awful.
The Thunder have been known to be quite leaky on the perimeter against everybody who isn't the Spurs, though, and theoretically they could be in trouble if Mike Miller and James Johnson get hot from outside, but I'm not holding my breath. The better chance is for them to keep the possessions low, control the boards, frustrate OKC's stars and try to take advantage of Brooks' lack of creativity when games get tight.
Also, keep shooting at the basket on every dead ball while Westbrook is out there, because, well, you know.
The Thunder are essentially a three-man team, where one of the three has a wonky knee and another one has limited skills, but somehow they make it work thanks to the world's most unguardable player, a million free throw attempts and some elbow grease. I'll let the analytic community drool over Nick Collison. To me, he's a guy who looks decent because the alternative is Perkins, the most useless oaf in the league. Caron Butler? Derek Fisher? That can't possibly work through four playoff rounds, right?
The Thunder went 4-4 in their final eight games, losing to a Pelicans squad with exactly zero relevant active players and barely beating the Pistons at home to secure the two seed. It's not like they come into the playoffs on a roll. The Grizzlies meanwhile won home games against fellow seventh-seed hopefuls Dallas and Phoenix, for what it's worth.
Sadly, what it's worth is roughly two wins, but don't worry, Beno's got this.
Fun Stat: Reggie Jackson, whom I didn't mention at all in the preview, had three of his six highest-scoring games of the season against the Spurs. What a swell fella.
Prediction: Thunder in six.