Thunder (12-8, 3-5 road) vs. Grizzlies (12-9, 7-4 home)
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 – 109.0 (2nd), Grizzlies – 101.7 (24th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.6 (15th), Grizzlies – 105.1 (20th)
As Royce pointed out in his recap of the Kings’ game, a win doesn’t always feel like a win. This was the first time I can remember being frustratingly angry after a victory. If you saw my Twitter feed during and after the game, you would know how I felt about the team and the game that night. Fast forward 48 hours later, and I still feel the same way. Something is off with this team and the worst part about it is not being able to pinpoint exactly what is wrong. What worries me is that this may be a combination of issues from where there is no coming back.
When I write, I like to relate things in my writings to something else to help get the point across. In looking at the Thunder in their current state, the best comparison I can think of is relating it to someone’s medical history. When a person passes, its usually because of illness or disease. And we label it as such. This person passed away from congestive heart failure, or that person passed away from pneumonia. What we don’t usually see is that person’s medical history that led up to that point. We don’t see the incremental steps that got them to the point of no return (death).
With the Thunder, we’ve seen these incremental steps towards where we are at now. We saw them under Scott Brooks (the inability to change on the fly, the lack of offensive creativity, the stubbornness with line-ups, etc). We were like the fit person that eats whatever they want. Eventually it was going to catch up with us, and that “it” was injuries. So the Thunder opted for a transplant. They switched Brooks out for Billy Donovan. We’re still at the stage where we don’t know if the body will accept or reject the transplant. The players have all said the right things in public in regards to Donovan. But on the court, their play has said something different. What you hope is that the issues plaguing the team have more to do with learning a new system, and not with the players (especially the star players) tuning the coach out already.
This is the second meeting of the season between the Thunder and Grizzlies. Memphis won the first meeting, scoring a season high 122 points en route to a 122-116 victory. Russell Westbrook had a monster game with 40 points and 14 assists, but also had 8 turnovers. The Thunder were constantly playing catch-up in the game, but Memphis always had an answer. And that answer usually involved Mario Chalmers, who had a season high 29 points off the bench for the Grizzlies.The Opponent
The Memphis Grizzlies come into this game with a 12-9 record, having won 5 of their last 7 games. Their last game, against the Phoenix Suns, was won in dramatic fashion as Jeff Green dunked in an alley-oop pass from the sideline with 0.8 on the clock. The Grizzlies have been a bit of an enigma this season as they have struggled on the defensive end. The team has always been known for its “grit and grind” on the defensive end, but this season, the Grizzlies are allowing nearly 100 points per game. That may not seem like a lot in this new-age NBA, but consider that in the past five seasons, with basically the same core, the Grizzlies have given up an average of just under 94 points per game. When you combine that with their lack of scoring on the other end, you get a picture as to why the Grizzlies may not be coming out the gate as quickly as they’d hoped.
The core of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, and Courtney Lee is still putting up consistent numbers, but you can tell age is starting to takes its toll on some of them, especially Randolph and Allen. Randolph’s rebound numbers are down, while Allen’s athleticism is starting to wane with age. Despite the game winning basket in the last game, Jeff Green is having a bit of a down year this season, averaging only 10.3 points per game, which would be the lowest of his career. The acquisition of Chalmers has been an infusion of offense to a bench that features Matt Barnes, JaMychal Green, Beno Udrih, and Vince Carter. The injury to Branden Wright has compromised the Grizzlies’ big rotation and they are have to play small a lot more often this season.3 Big Things
You cannot allow the Grizzlies to score 122 points against you. First of all, I didn’t know it was physically possible for the Grizzlies to score 122 points in a regulation game. This is a team that averages 96.3 points per game. Allowing them to score 25 points over their average is not a recipe for success.
In the previous meeting, the Thunder were without Durant, as he nursed a strained hamstring. The Grizzlies will likely throw a barrage of wing defenders on Durant such as Jeff Green, Barnes, or Allen. It shouldn’t matter. Durant should still be able to get his against any one of those defenders. He’s had previous success against Green and Barnes, and has experienced the annoyance that is Tony Allen.
The Thunder have to become more consistent in putting together complete games. Other than the Utah game, this team has yet to put together a complete game. Their lapses are starting to catch up with them and it is starting to affect them mentally. You can see it in their demeanor whenever a lead starts to slip away. You saw it in the Sacramento game, and it has been something that has been consistently occurring for the past 10 games.Slump-Buster (The opposing player most likely to break out of a slump)
Jeff Green: This has not been a banner season for Green. He is averaging only 10.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He has a career low 11.82 PER. His best game of the season, though, came against the Thunder, in which he scored 20 points on 2-2 shooting from deep.