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Grizzlies vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer

Grizzlies vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer



Grizzlies (24-16, 10-9 road) vs. Thunder (23-16, 14-6 home)

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 7:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.5 (15th), Grizzlies – 102.2 (24th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.0 (8th), Grizzlies – 101.4 (2nd)

Think about the Thunder’s worst performance this season. Was it the 26 point loss in Oakland at the beginning of the season? Or was it the 19 and 20 point losses, both on the road, to division rivals Portland and Utah on back to back night about a month ago? Unfortunately, it was neither of those. All those losses pale in comparison to the 34-point debacle that occurred on Beale Street about two weeks ago. The Thunder played like they were the Thunder’s D-League affiliate that day. They looked like a team that was competing for the Number 1 pick in the next draft.

From the beginning, you got the sense it was not going to be the Thunder’s night. The first six minutes of the game saw the Thunder shoot 2-7 from the field (many of those at the rim), turn the ball over 5 times (all by Russell Westbrook), and have the most difficult time just setting up their basic half-court offense. I had never seen a team completely baffle Westbrook like that to start a game. He was out of sync, and as is usually the case with the Thunder, however he goes they go. Things didn’t get any better as the night progressed and, eventually, frustration got the best of Westbrook and he got an early exit in the 3rd quarter by virtue of two technical fouls on a blown shot-clock management call. The Thunder played about as well as you would think with Semaj Christon leading the charge, and the Grizzlies poured it on in the 4th.

It was the kind of game where you hoped a small fire would develop in the NBA’s game log office and burn just one file: this one. But as is the case with the NBA, you forget and you move on.

Season Series Summary

This is the second of four meeting this season between the Thunder and Grizzlies. For a recap of their previous game, see above.

The Opponent

The Grizzlies come into this game with a 24-16 record. They have been consistently inconsistent over their past 13 games, which goes as follows: 3 losses, 2 wins, 2 losses, 2 wins, 2 losses, 2 wins. Memphis had injury issues over the first quarter of the season, but the team is finally starting to get healthy. Point guard Mike Conley seems to be over the broken bone in his back (do you ever get over that?), and Chandler Parsons is slowly rounding into game form after missing most of the past two seasons with knee issues. He has scored 19 points over the past two games, which is his highest two game total since early November.

The Grizzlies are still sustained by their veteran core of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Conley. Add JaMychal Green, Vince Carter, and Troy Daniels to the mix, and the Grizzlies have a pretty good rotation if everyone is healthy. This was on full display on Friday when the Grizzlies battled back from 22 down in the fourth, to win in overtime against the Warriors on the road.



3 Big Things

1. Turnovers

In their last meeting, the Thunder had 19 turnovers. While it didn’t really affect the Thunder defensively, as the Grizzlies got only 12 points from all those turnovers, it did completely ruin the Thunder’s game plan. It’s a clash of styles any time the Thunder and Grizzlies meet, with the Thunder wanting to turn the game into a track meet and the Grizzlies wanting the game to resemble it being played in sand. With all those turnovers and the Grizzlies dictating the pace, the Thunder were never able to develop a rhythm and fell to Memphis’ style of play.

2. Zach Randolph

In the last 6 games, to include the last Thunder game, Zach Randolph has looked like the Z-Bo from a couple years ago. He’s averaging 16.5 points and 8 rebounds in that span and anchoring a Grizzlies reserve unit that is starting to use him like the Thunder are starting to use Enes Kanter. Randolph beasted the Thunder so much in their previous meeting that head coach Billy Donovan had to dust Nick Collison off for a couple minutes in that game.

3. Russell Westbrook

The Clippers were the Thunder’s opponent following the Memphis game. In that primer, I wrote that Westbrook usually bounces back from terrible games with great games. And he surely did, burning the Clippers for a 16th triple-double of the season (17 points, 12 rebounds, and 14 assists). But don’t think for a minute that Westbrook has forgotten what happened in Memphis nearly two weeks ago. That game, and his performance and ejection, are probably seared in his mind. He’ll come out more ready in this game. You can bank on it.