Thunder vs. Grizzlies: Pregame Primer
I honestly didn’t think he could do it. I don’t make it a habit of doubting Russell Westbrook too often, but with the amount of variables that go into getting triple-doubles on an almost nightly basis, I figured there was no way he could accomplish this goal. He has to get at least 10 rebounds every time he triple-doubles. Ten. He’s six foot frickin’ three. I know there are dynamics within the team’s schema that make it beneficial for Westbrook to grab rebounds, but still, he’s 6’3″. And as far as the assists, it’s no secret Westbrook doesn’t have the greatest of offensive players around him. Here’s what I wrote two weeks ago:
I thought to myself it was going to be difficult for him to get those 7 triple-doubles. That’s him getting a triple double in 63% of the remaining games. That’s no small feat. Even 41 out of 82 is still just 50%. Since that tweet, though, he’s gone on to record 6 more triple-doubles, all in consecutive fashion. It’s like Westbrook wants to break every triple-double record known to man this season.
Hmmmm, what’s the most points scored in a triple-double? Oh, James (Harden) has two 50-point triple-doubles this season. Well, then, let me just go ahead and match him while also scoring the most points for a triple double. Who holds the record for most consecutive games with a triple-double? Oh, Wilt Chamberlain with 9. Okay, Wilt, I’m on your tail and fast approaching.
There’s nothing else you can say about this season. It’s been amazing. Yeah, I know. Kevin Durant, not championship contenders, blah, blah, blah. But what we’ve witnessed this season is the exact catharsis this fan base needed. We are witnessing one of the greatest statistical seasons in the history of the NBA. In addition, we may be seeing one of the most anomalous MVP seasons on record. Giving the award to someone outside of the top 2 teams is almost unheard of. But, triple-double seasons rarely happen in the NBA. And we have been privileged enough to witness one. Is there a possible first round exit in our future? Very likely. But there is something to build off of. This is the exact bookend this fan base needed after a certain someone decided to take a wreaking ball to the organization this summer.
Season Series Summary
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Grizzlies. The Thunder currently lead the season series 2-1. The Grizzlies blew the Thunder out in their first meeting, in a game that saw Westbrook get ejected after picking up two technicals in the third quarter. The Thunder won the next two meetings as Westbrook paid the Grizzlies back with a pair of triple-doubles.
Alex Abrines – Out (knee)
Three Big Things
1. Playoff Positioning?
I don’t know if this game means anything to either team in terms of playoff positioning. The Thunder are 2.5 games ahead of the Grizzlies with 5 games to play. San Antonio would be a better match-up for either team, but the Thunder aren’t the type to tank games to move down a spot in the playoff race. That’s not in their nature and that would likely ruin Westbrook’s MVP chances. While these two teams will play hard, there will be nothing on the line in terms of playoff positioning.
Both teams are coming off back to backs. The Thunder coasted to victory in their game and all their starters played significantly less minutes than they usually do. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, got locked into an overtime battle with the Spurs. With some of their players coming back from injury (Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green) and Mike Conley suffering another facial injury (must be playoff time in Memphis), the Grizzlies may be a little road-weary. The Thunder need to push the pace in this game to try and tire the Grizzlies out. The Grizzlies are still the grit and grinders of the NBA, so they will try to keep the score in the low 90’s. If the score is there, the Thunder may be in trouble. If the score is closer to 105+, then that would fit the Thunder’s pace much better.
Westbrook has 5 opportunities to make history. He also needs just 16 more assists to lock in a season triple-double (he already has the points and the rebounds). It will be interesting to see what the Thunder do if Westbrook gets the record in these next few games and they lock up the 6th seed. If the injury to Alex Abrines proves anything, it’s that if you are playing in a game, there is always a risk for injury. Will the Thunder continue trotting Westbrook out there if there is nothing to play for? The problem is the MVP is something to play for, so there is likely no rest in Westbrook’s near future.