The Oklahoma City Thunder (39-24) managed to rob the bank in broad daylight on Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, defeating the Memphis Grizzlies (25-40) by a final score of 99-95. The Thunder trailed throughout and faced a 13-point deficit with just over six minutes remaining, but used a 23-6 run to close it out and secure the win. The offense was anemic throughout, but Russell Westbrook led the comeback charge for OKC by scoring 12 points on 4-of-7 from the field in the final quarter. In total, Westbrook was the high-man for the Thunder, scoring 22 points on 7-of-20 shooting. Avery Bradley paced the visiting Grizzlies with 27 points.
Westbrook had quite a bit going on in the opening quarter — some good, more not so good, as he started the game with a reckless turnover on the Thunder’s first possession. Westbrook picked up his 14th technical of the season just two minutes into the game, which means Russ is two technicals short of a one-game suspension. As a whole, the Thunder offense was rather dreadful in the quarter outside of Abdel Nader’s two three-pointers in the closing minutes. The Grizzlies led 28-25 after one.
The offense (if you could even call it that) didn’t fare much better for OKC in the second. The Thunder briefly took the lead after Dennis Schroder’s steal led to an easy transition dunk for Terrance Ferguson, but Memphis responded with a five-point possession when Tyler Dorsey stole Steven Adams’ lazy inbounds pass following Delon Wright’s layup and hit a wide-open three at the 2:29 mark. The Thunder “offense” shot 34.8 percent in the half, as Big Kiwi’s 12 rebounds (five offensive) was the lone bright spot for the Thunder. The Grizzlies extended their lead 52-46 at the break.
Memphis capitalized on a pair of turnovers by the Thunder en route to a 12-3 run midway through the third, which grew their advantage to 13 points. The Thunder started the second half by going 2-of-11 from the field, essentially looking at each other searching for any source of offense. In the quarter, the Thunder went 6-of-23 from the field (26.1 FG%) as the Grizzlies led 75-67 after three quarters.
The game appeared to be out of reach after the Grizz pushed their lead back up to 13 points when Jonas Valanciunas converted two free-throws at the 6:34 mark. But in typical fashion, the Thunder had a major push left in the tank. Westbrook’s three cut the Thunder’s deficit to five with 4:18 on the clock, and the defensive intensity ramped up. The Thunder strung together a handful of stops before Schroder’s layup brought OKC within three at the 1:47 mark.
Westbrook tied the game at 93 on another three-pointer with 1:04 remaining. Following another Thunder stop, Westbrook’s pull-up jumper found bottom, putting the Thunder on the high side 95-93 with 31.9 seconds left. Memphis was able to manufacture a quality look after Delon Wright’s pump-fake on a helter skelter Ferguson closeout gave him a wide-open corner three, which didn’t fall. Schroder converted both free-throws, giving OKC a four point lead with 14.9 seconds left. Wright’s layup then made it a one possession game with Ferguson going to the line with 6.5 seconds remaining. The 20-year old Tulsa native stepped to the stripe and calmly made both attempts, sealing the much-needed victory for the recently spiraling Thunder.
Flair For The Dramatics: With the Thunder trailing by 13 points with six minutes and change left on the clock, the odds were stacked against them — especially when you consider how poorly they were playing. The Thunder got timely stops and didn’t allow Memphis any second-chance opportunities on their comeback bid, ending the game on a 23-6 run. Sure, Memphis is a tanking team who just so happened to be without their best player (Mike Conley), but seeing this team recommit themselves defensively when they needed it most is always a step in the right direction.
Fourth Quarter Brodie: Let’s call a spade a spade: Westbrook simply didn’t have it through three quarters in this one. He often looked passive, settling for far too many three-pointers, but like the Undertaker, he came alive at the most opportune time. Westbrook scored 12 of his 22 points in the final frame on 4-of-7 shooting (2/5 from three). He appeared to be hobbled, lacking explosion as he rarely attacked the paint tonight.
Kiwi’s Back: Steven Adams recorded his second 20-rebound game of the season, as his 22 boards were one shy of tying his career high of 23 set earlier this season against Sacramento. Kiwi was diving for loose balls and exuding competitive fire when the Thunder were dragging through the first half. The Thunder could certainly get used to performances like this out of their big man.
A$AP Ferg: With Paul George missing his third straight game tonight, the Thunder desperately needed someone to step up from beyond the arc. Coming into tonight’s game, Ferguson had shot just 31 percent from downtown over the last six games. Ferguson wasn’t able to improve his shooting numbers, going 0-of-3 from three tonight. However, T-Ferg sealed the deal and put the Thunder up four with his pair of free-throws with 6.5 seconds on the clock. It’s been a big season for Ferguson, demonstrating copious potential in Year Two filling in for Andre Roberson. Hopefully he can regain his stroke from January.