Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

May 11, 2013

Grizzlies tune out excitement to focus on Thunder

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Grizzlies have had three days off in their series with Oklahoma City for their longest break since the All-Star weekend, more than enough time to become a popular pick to win Western Conference this postseason.

Giddy fans are tweeting about possible matchups with others wondering where a parade could be held. When the Grizzlies are out in the city, they hear from supporters with their tickets ready.

"You hear it, but we doing a good job focusing," Memphis forward Zach Randolph said Friday of all the excitement. "We don't let that get to us. We don't worry about what people say. We focus and take each game one game at a time and focus on the game."

That means Game 3 on Saturday with this best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal tied at 1-1, though the Grizzlies have the next two at home along and three of the final five if needed.

The Grizzlies have won three straight on their home court in the postseason and are 17-1 going back to Feb. 8. Another sold-out crowd awaits at the FedExForum with the Grizzlies past their disappointment at missing the chance to return home with a 2-0 lead in this series.

"We've still got to do our part here at home," Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said. "We got to do our part and try to win both games at home in order for that road win to mean something."

The Thunder lost their last visit to Memphis when Grizzlies center Marc Gasol tipped in a bucket for a 90-89 win in overtime on March 20. Kevin Durant said they remain confident in what they know will be a tough series.

"I don't think we've fallen off track," Durant said. "We dug ourselves a hole. We've just got to go in there and worry about the next game and take it a possession at a time."

The Grizzlies left Oklahoma City with the split after beating the Thunder 99-93 on Tuesday night. They want to better defend both Durant, leading all scorers this postseason with 37.3 points a game, and his teammates from the 3-point line. Kevin Martin hit three 3s in Game 1, while Derek Fisher scored 19 points in Game 2 after hitting four of five beyond the arc.

Grizzlies forward Quincy Pondexter said they know they must better defend the perimeter with someone different stepping up every game this series for Oklahoma City.

"They have some weapons, and we know that," Pondexter said. "And that's why they're such a dangerous."

The Grizzlies' challenge is figuring out when to guard the shooter out beyond the arc at the risk of leaving Durant too much room to operate. The Grizzlies' game plan is to try to take one or two players away, but Memphis guard Mike Conley said they still have to contest Durant as best they can.

"When he's a playmaker, we got to do a better job helping and getting out to their shooters like Derek and then Jackson and Martin, all those guys who've been hitting 3s against us. So we got to do a lot better job at that," Conley said. "And if we can do that, we have a great chance to win."

Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks has his own issues.

The Grizzlies may rank eighth this postseason scoring 98.9 points a game, but they are averaging 105.3 points at home. Conley, Randolph and center Marc Gasol give Memphis the only team with three players ranked in the top 20 in scoring in these playoffs. Brooks said Memphis' scoring at home is definitely a concern.

"They have a very good team that has an inside-outside attack," Brooks said. "We have to make sure that we control Conley much better than we did in the second game. Our bigs, our smalls, our wings, everybody's going to have to do a great job defensively to stop them from getting on a run."

Memphis may have been the NBA's best in the regular season allowing only 89.3 points a game, but the Thunder ranked second holding opponents to 42.5 percent shooting. That was just ahead of Memphis, the team with the defensive player of the year in Gasol, guard Tony Allen who finished fifth in that voting, and Conley — the NBA's steals leader this season.

So Brooks wants his Thunder to focus on preventing the Grizzlies from getting offensive rebounds and limiting their own turnovers. Memphis got 23 second-chance points and 29 off Oklahoma City's 21 turnovers in Game 2. Fisher agrees, especially on the road.

"You have to be even more careful with the basketball," Fisher said. "That's something that in order to impact not just Mike Conley but all of their perimeter players, we have to keep from turning the basketball over and give ourselves a chance to get back and get our defense set."

___

AP Sports Writer Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

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