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Thunder vs. Grizzlies: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Grizzlies: Pregame Primer



Grizzlies (5-6, 2-2 home) vs. Thunder (6-4, 2-2 road)

TV: FS Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 7:00 PM CST

Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.4 (2nd), Grizzlies – 99.5 (28th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.1 (14th), Grizzlies – 107.8 (24th)

Imagine the Oklahoma City Thunder floating on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Nothing but water surrounding them for miles on out. Now imagine there is one basketball on the boat. One of the players decides to grab the ball and toss it into the ocean…..and it somehow completely misses the water. That’s basically how the Thunder played in the fourth quarter against the Celtics. They literally couldn’t even throw it in the ocean. The Thunder, this offensive juggernaut, made just two field goals and scored 11 points total in the fourth. They entered the quarter with a two point lead and ended the game on the wrong side of a 15 point loss.

A lot of the blame will be placed solely on the bench yesterday. But I thought the momentum began to shift with about 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter when Enes Kanter replaced Steven Adams. While Kanter has shown improvement this season on the defensive end, this was probably his worst game of the season on that end of the floor. As soon as he came in, he picked up three personal fouls, of the free-throw shooting variety, which slowed the game down. The offense bogged down for the Thunder and the Celtics started making shots. The Thunder never recovered from there. Fortunately, the great thing about the NBA’s schedule is the quick turnaround. There isn’t much time to dwell on the previous game, regardless of whether it was a win or a loss.

This is the first of three meetings between the Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies won the season series last year 3-1. The faced the Thunder in their various forms last season, with the Thunder’s only victory coming when they were at full strength.

The Opponent

The Grizzlies come into the game with a surprising 5-6 record. Considered to be a bottom-tiered championship contender, the Grizzlies have surprisingly struggled on both ends of the floor. With the Grizzlies, its always expected they will slow the game down and grind it out, thus negating their own offensive output. What wasn’t expected was how slow they have appeared this season on the defensive end. They are giving up 101.1 points per game, which is 16th in the league. They are the worst team at defending the 3-point line, which is basically like self-destruction in today’s NBA. They are allowing teams to shot 47% from the field and have struggled in grabbing rebounds.

The Grizzlies have one of the most tenured cores in the league, consisting of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, and Courtney Lee. The addition of Jeff Green last season gave the Grizzlies another wing that can score in a variety of ways. JaMychal Green has been a surprise off the Grizzlies’ bench as a reserve big man, and has softened the loss of Brandan Wright, who is out due to knee issues. Mario Chalmers was brought in via trade a week ago and gives the Grizzlies good depth at the point guard position. And, of course, the Thunder’s favorite player, Matt Barnes, will provide some depth on the wing.

3 Big Things

1. Shooting

Where the Grizzlies have struggled defensively is on recovering back onto shooters. The struggle may be further exacerbated by the fact the Grizzlies have played the Golden State Warriors twice. But the fact still remains that Tony Allen, Jeff Green, Mike Conley, and Courtney Lee are all a little bit older and a little big slower in their recovery efforts on the perimeter. With Westbrook and Waiters having the ability to get into the lane, this should free up the shooters to have good looks.

2. Post Defense

Kendrick Perkins isn’t walk through that door anytime soon! (I’m joking). Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka have done a good job on Gasol and Randolph in recent history. And actually, this game fits into Enes Kanter’s defensive wheelhouse. He’s a solid post defender, but struggles in the pick and roll. Guarding behemoths like Gasol and Randolph should bring Kanter’s defensive confidence back up. The loss of Brandan Wright hurts the big man depth for the Grizzlies and almost forces them to play small, which is not one of their strengths.

3. Anthony Morrow

The consensus around Thunder nation 5 days ago was, “Why the hell is Kyle Singler playing over Anthony Morrow so much?” Honestly, I still don’t have an answer for that. But, yesterday showed why Morrow has been an expendable commodity throughout the league. When he’s on, he’s one of the best shooters in the league. But his biggest problem is that he has to be on to provide a net positive for your team. When he’s off, he’s to perimeter defense what Perkins was to post offense. For everyone wondering why Morrow was receiving DNP-CDs against guard-heavy teams, last night’s game showed why. The Celtics ran whoever Morrow was guarding through pick and rolls, and that player was constantly finding himself in the lane. Against the Grizzlies, though, Morrow should be better equipped to handle them defensively and should provide more on the offensive end.