[dropcap]M[/dropcap]EMPHIS – Thanks to another gritty, defensive-minded effort by the Memphis Grizzlies, the Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves in some real trouble in the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
Thanks to their now trademark no-flash, no-frills, physical and hard-nosed approach, Memphis finds itself one win away from it’s first-ever conference final, and has the defending conference champions on the ropes.
Can OKC come back down 3-1 and sans Westbrook?
If tonight’s 103-97 loss was any indication, then the answer is a definite no, as the Thunder are truly experiencing what life is like with point guard Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant is now experiencing a case of “LeBron Syndrome” without the services of his flashy, loose cannon sidekick.
While Reggie Jackson is trying to channel the clutch gene of his baseball namesake, he is no Westbrook, let alone the artist formerly known as James Harden.
I want to take a moment to give Memphis some serious love for playing the high-flying Thunder tough, dirtying them up in the post and making them into an ABA jump-shooting team, if there is one thing in Durant’s game that I could even remotely critique would be his lack of playing down low and lack of a killer instinct.
While he is this generation’s George Gervin, he lacks the will to carry a team on his own, and it has clearly shown in Westbrook’s absence.
Whether or not Westbrook is the reason the Thunder are down 3-1 is irrelevant, as we are seeing the emergence of a new Western power in Memphis that does not have the glamour of Kobe, the explosiveness of Durant-Westbrook nor the hard-nosed experience of San Antonio.
What we have seen is a rugged—yet—disciplined team that has perhaps the best center in the league in Marc Gasol and a beast in the post in Zach Randolph loves to get dirty, yet has a deft shooter’s touch.
Last but not least, there is Mike Conley, who is the most underrated point guard in the entire playoffs. While he is not the de jour flavor of the month in Stephon Curry, as quick and nimble as Tony Parker, or as sly as Jason Kidd, Conley just gets it done.
As his 24 point, five assist, three rebound state line would attest, he gets buckets, no flash, just results.
If Game 5 is going to be the proverbial swan song for the 2012-13 Thunder, one lesson that can be taken from this is that Westbrook is more important to OKC than they could have ever imagined, and that the Grizzlies are the new beasts in the West.
Robert D. Cobb is the Founder/CEO/Senior Editor-In-Chief Of The Inscriber : Digital Magazine, for questions, comments and concerns email me at [email protected] follow me on Twitter @RC_TheInscriber and follow The Inscriber : Digital Magazine on Twitter at @TheInscriber