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Thunder vs. Grizzlies: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Grizzlies: Pregame Primer



Thunder (20-12, 8-6 road) vs. Grizzlies (20-14, 12-7 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 – 104.7 (15th), Grizzlies – 100.3 (29th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.2 (9th), Grizzlies – 100.7 (1st)

I know it’s early, but these next two games for the Oklahoma City Thunder could hold some future playoff implications. Not only do they figure in the short-term for current seeding, but they could also figure into some tie-breakers at the end of the season. The Thunder finish out their season series with the Clippers on January 16th, and are currently tied 1-1 in their two games with them this season. The Thunder may be catching the Clippers at the right time, as both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are dealing with injuries, with Griffin expected to be out while he recovers from knee surgery.

For as young as the Thunder are, getting the highest seed possible may be the best lesson of all for many of the young players on the roster. Many of those players have never experienced anything past 40 games in a season, let alone a playoff run. Getting guys like Jerami Grant, Joffrey Lauvergne, Victor Oladipo, Alex Abrines, and Domantas Sabonis a playoff run experience may be a huge boon for the team moving into next season and beyond.

Season Series Recap

This is the first of four meetings this season between the Thunder and Grizzlies. The Thunder won the season series last year 2-1, winning a game at home and one on the road, both in blowout fashion. Of all the rivalries the Thunder have, this one is probably the one that has seen the most action (regular season and playoffs).

The Opponent

The Grizzlies come into the game with a 20-14 record, having lost 5 of their last 7 games. They’ve had injury issues all year, with Mike Conley breaking a bone in his back about a month ago and Chandler Parsons rehabbing from his offseason knee surgery. Both players have been introduced back  into the line-up within the past two weeks and that has messed with the chemistry the Grizzlies had built when those two players were out of the line-up.

The Grizzlies are basically the same team we’ve seen the last 5 seasons; great defensively and slow, but precise offensively. The Grizzlies are once again one of the top, if not the top, defensive team in the league. They are aggressive on the ball and have the length to recover on shooters. Offensively, they are an efficient, half-court unit that relies on Marc Gasol and Conley to either provide or set-up the offense. Conley is questionable for this game with an injury to his big toe, but head coach Dave Fizdale advised that he expects Conley to play tonight barring any set-backs during pregame warm-ups.


Cameron Payne (foot)
Victor Oladipo (wrist)

3 Big Things

1. Pace

This game is the ultimate transition offense vs. half-court offense affair. The Grizzlies are okay with grinding the game damn near to a halt and using most of the shot clock to get a shot. The Thunder, on the other hand, like to get shots up before the defense even has an opportunity to set up. In essence, if the Thunder end up in triple digits, they will likely be in better position to secure a victory, than if the Grizzlies keep them to under 90 points.

2. Points in the Paint

The interior will be very hard to get into with big men like Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Steven Adams, and Enes Kanter patrolling around it. The Grizzlies allow the least amount of points in the paint, at just over 36 points per game. On the other end of the spectrum, the Thunder lead the league in points in the paint at 50.7 points per game, which accounts for 47.4% of their offense. As good as the Grizzlies are defensively, you can bet they will pack the paint and dare the Thunder to beat them from the perimeter tonight.

3. X-Factors

With so much focus on Russell Westbrook and the interior, players like Anthony Morrow and Alex Abrines will likely play a big role in determining the outcome of this game. If the Thunder shooters can soften Memphis’ defense by hitting some key shots from the outside, it may eventually open up the lane for Westbrook, Adams, and Kanter to do their thing.