Oklahoma City Thunder fans would love to sit back and relax in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, but chances are they will be on the edge of their seats, gnawing on their fingernails and sweating bullets until their team wins a fourth game. Having the frontrunner for the MVP in Durant is not enough to scare off the veteran Memphis squad, and with the Grizzlies physical inside presence, the Thunder could be in danger of an upset.
Kevin Durant has put up monster numbers this season on his way to his fourth scoring title, dropping 32.0 ppg, while knocking down an impressive 50.3 percent of his shots from the field. There’s no argument when fans say that Durant is good. He’s very good, and usually that equates to a sure-fire championship contender, but the Thunder will need good solid contribution from the people around him for them to obtain their final goal.
Rooting for the underdog always seems to be the trendy thing to do, a sort of anti-establishment ritual that sports fans give into. People want to see David take down Goliath, or see a team filled with college-aged American kids take down the all-mighty Soviets. It’s in the blood, and fans can feel the excitement pounding in their chest when the underdog has got the champion on the ropes. “And down goes Tyson,” is still enough to give sports fans chills that tickle the back of the neck and send shivers down the spine. “Tyson has been knocked out,” was not followed by boos and disappointment, it was followed by cheers and excitement. It boils down to the very root of why sports matter—the competition and a battle between warrior individuals and warrior teams.
Now, the Memphis Grizzlies may not only be armed with a slingshot, and the Oklahoma City Thunder may not be Goliath, but the danger they will face of being upset, or at the very least going six or seven games deep into the series is a very strong possibility. The Grizzlies are a team that’s hungry for success and has the ability to cause major issues down low with veteran big men, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The Thunder will need for power forward, Serge Ibaka to control the paint, and try to keep the Grizzlies off the glass if they look to advance to round two.
The best of seven series is shaping up to be an atypical first round matchup that should have the cities of Oklahoma City and Memphis buzzing. Even prior to tip-off, the energy and anticipation leading into this series has the feel of a series a few weeks down the road—a matchup between two 50 plus win teams that could give teams fits throughout the playoffs. The Thunder may be in danger of a big time upset, but don’t tell the Grizzlies that. The Grizzlies are a team that knows they belong, and believe that they can win. This spells danger for any team that dares to get in their way, and spells excitement for fans of both teams and NBA fans nationwide.
Commentary by Johnny Caito