In NBA playoffs, it’s all about matchups

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Final Point,

By Kyle Salomon,


When it comes to the NBA playoffs, many people wonder why lower-seeded teams are able to compete with the higher seeds.

The answer is relatively simple. It is all about matchups in the NBA.

For instance, you look at the Oklahoma City Thunder and their series with the Memphis Grizzlies. The Thunder is the No.2 seed in the Western Conference and considered a favorite by many experts not only to win the West, but reign victorious as the NBA champions in late June.

However, Oklahoma City finds itself tied in the first-round series with the Grizz at one game apiece and has lost the home-court advantage for now.

The Thunder put a spanking on Memphis in the opening game of the series last Saturday night, but the Grizzlies bounced back and clawed and scratched their way to a road victory Monday night in the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Oklahoma City is struggling with the No.7 seeded Grizzlies because Memphis plays a style of basketball that is not conducive for what the Thunder like and need to do to be successful and win basketball games.

The Grizz slow the game down to a pace that makes the tortoise look like a speeding bullet. The Thunder like to play at a pace that makes the hare look like it’s running in mud.

Memphis wants to pound the rock inside to their two big bruising post players, Marc Gasol and Zac Randolph, who each have the ability to score from any position in the paint. This type of offense gives the Thunder fits because OKC is not built to handle an inside heavy team.

Yes, Oklahoma City will prevail in the series and advance to the next round, but it won’t be a “normal” first-round series where the higher seed makes the lower seed look like a junior high basketball team. The Thunder will be bruised and battered coming out of the Memphis series, but hopefully their young bodies will heal quickly before the quarterfinal round begins.

Another example of a classic NBA matchup that favors the Thunder is the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have been one of the best professional sports franchises in the last 16 years. It is no coincidence that Spurs forward Tim Duncan has been with the team for 16 years. Duncan is the cornerstone of the Spurs franchise, much like Kevin Durant is for OKC.

San Antonio had the best record in the entire NBA this regular season, winning 62 games and clinching home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, including the NBA Finals.

However, when it comes to playing the Thunder, the Spurs are 0-4 against their Western Conference nemesis this season. Oklahoma City brings an element of youth, athleticism and explosiveness that gives the elderly, savvy Spurs problems when they share a basketball court.

San Antonio plays a ball-movement style of offense that is predicated on the pick-and-roll screen action at the top of the key with 3-point shooters on the wings awaiting a Tony Parker kick-out for an open trey.

Several years ago, the Thunder struggled to stop this attack from the Spurs, but as Oklahoma City has matured, they have figured out how to slow down the SA offense using their length on the perimeter combined with their overall athleticism in the paint.

There is no doubt people in Oklahoma City would love to see a Spurs-Thunder matchup in the Western Conference Finals, but the folks down in San Antonio are hoping OKC gets called home from the playoffs earlier than expected.

So, if you find yourself sitting on the couch watching these NBA playoffs and wondering to yourself how Memphis can hang with the Thunder, just remember, it is all about matchups.