The NBA opening-round series between the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder is knotted at one game apiece heading back to the FedEx Forum. The Grizz should still be considered underdogs after gritting out a tough overtime road win in Game 2, but shooting guard Courtney Lee may have a strategy to win the series: let Russell Westbrook shoot.
The 28-year-old said the following of OKC's point guard, per Sports 56 WHBQ's Peter Edmiston:
Courtney Lee: "We're fine with Westbrook taking shots, I mean, that's kinda what you want - the more shots he takes, the less Durant takes."— Peter Edmiston (@peteredmiston) April 23, 2014
Keeping the ball out of Kevin Durant's hands would certainly be a viable strategy no matter how it happens. However, more shots for Westbrook hasn't necessarily equaled fewer looks for KD in this series.
In the Thunder's 100-86 Game 1 victory, Durant finished with 33 points on 13-of-25 shooting (52 percent). His trigger-happy teammate scored 23 on 8-of-19 shooting (42.1 percent) while missing all five of his three-point attempts. KD got more looks, which translated into a win.
In Oklahoma City's Game 2 loss, the dynamic teammates wound up with a combined 65 points on 23-of-56 shooting. Both players shot the ball 28 times—so Durant still got plenty of looks—but the lack of efficiency from each was ultimately what doomed them.
WFUV's Kenny Ducey pointed out the following stat via Twitter:
Last night, Durant (12/28) & Westbrook (11/28) became the 1st teammates to miss 15+ shots in a playoff game since Kobe & Shaq in '03 (Elias)— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) April 22, 2014
Holding KD to 42.9 percent shooting on the night was what helped ensure a win for the Grizzlies. In this case, Westbrook hoisting more attempts didn't have much to do with the loss, because Durant also had an off night (by his gargantuan standards).
With that said, Westbrook is a far less efficient scorer when compared with his MVP-caliber teammate.
|Player||FG%||3P%||% on Drives|
ESPN.com and NBA.com
On that basis, Lee is 100 percent correct to say that Memphis will live with Westbrook shooting the ball more than Durant. Nevertheless, the veteran 2-guard runs the risk of lighting a fire under OKC's floor general and prompting him to up his game on both ends.
Despite sporting a No. 2 seed versus a No. 7 seed, this Western Conference matchup has been very competitive thus far. As long as Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph continue to make an impact down low, Memphis will have a chance to pull off what would be a shocking upset.