Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Throughout the majority of Sunday’s series opener in the Memphis Grizzlies/Oklahoma City Thunder matchup in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, you got the sense that the road underdog was the better team. Memphis was moving the ball more effectively. Memphis was playing better defense. Memphis was making more treys. It was as if they had crowned themselves as the new #1 seed in the West because they were peaking at just the right time.
Then Kevin Durant reminded everyone who the best player in the West is…as he lead the Thunder from double digits down in the second half off the way to a 93-91 victory.
Where does that leave us heading into Game Two? Home court advantage is worth SOMETHING. Typically 3-4 points in the NBA Playoffs. Sometimes more. Since Memphis only lost by a deuce, that suggests they’re still the better overall team in the matchup because Russell Westbrook is on the sidelines. Can Oklahoma City win a game on the road? Can Memphis fix what went wrong in the fourth quarter Sunday? The answers start coming in Tuesday Night…
MEMPHIS AT OKLAHOMA CITY
Vegas Line: Oklahoma City by 3, total of 186
Oklahoma City Leads 1-0
Some places are showing Oklahoma City by 2.5 instead of 3 as we write this up for you. It might be a universal -2.5 by the time you read it. The Wise Guys hit Memphis +4 and +3.5 in the first game, and still cashed their tickets even though Memphis blew the straight up result. The market still sees Memphis as the slightly superior team, with a line that’s close enough to create at least one coin flip in OKC that could go their way.
The total has dropped from a Game One guess of 187. That one landed on 184 with the 93-91 finish. Of course, it was only 16-14 after the first quarter! We’ll need a larger sampling to know how the flow of this one is going to play out. It’s been very erratic so far, with quarters of 30, 63, 44, and 47 on Sunday.
Statistical keys from the opener:
*Memphis won three pointers 7-5, which is a surprise given what we saw in the first round. Oklahoma City neutralized Houston’s long range scoring with their own volume, while the Grizzlies tended to attack the Clippers inside. If Memphis is going to start making 7-8 treys per game, they really do become the best team in the West! If they drop back to prior norms…then maybe it’s not going to be so easy to win a game on the road. The opener was close because Memphis made more treys than normal.
*Memphis did a good job of earning as many free throws as OKC, but a bad job of making as many. Attempts were 25-24 for OKC, which is below what they usually get. Makes were 22-14 for OKC, meaning that the Grizzlies missed way too many freebies. If the visitor just shoots better on free throws in Game Two, that should make up for the treys that may not be there this time.
*The media is just chomping at the bit to create a Rudy Gay angle in this series. The media loves scorers who don’t pass the ball and don’t play defense…so they blasted Memphis for trading Gay away. Since Memphis became one of the hottest teams in the league after he left, the press had to shut up! Now that the team showed confusion in the fourth quarter of a tight loss, the vultures are going to come out again. Can Memphis handle the pressure of tight fourth quarters? They were outscored 29-18 Sunday.
JIM HURLEY has been using the full force of NETWORK’S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach to get a read on this one. He’s studying all Game Two histories between competitive teams when the first game was a nailbiter. He’s running and re-running the simulations with his quants. He’s going over the regular season boxscores with his statheads. And, he’s checking in with his Wise Guy connections offshore and in Las Vegas to stay abreast of the smart money.
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Back with you Wednesday to take our first NOTEBOOK look at Golden State/San Antonio. Thursday will probably be a baseball day because the NBA is taking a rare night off. Get your handicapping fix right here in the NOTEBOOK, and your BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!