What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
You know, it had to happen sometime. The letdown game. And I really don't mind it happening against this Grizzlies team. They played a really tough defensive game, did a great job of distributing the ball, killed it on the boards, and used some really unique defense on Kevin Durant. Heck, the Grizzlies even did a great job of grabbing a lead late in the fourth, and sealing the win with a gamey shot from O.J. Mayo, who was hot all night.
What was tonight's turning point?
After being propelled by a Serge Ibaka jumper, the Thunder were mounting a freethrowtastic comeback with three minutes to go in the fourth. They were down by 9, but the Grizzly lead was slowly chipped away as Ibaka took control of the paint defensively. But after 5 straight possessions with no points, the Grizzlies finally sealed a win with a O.J. Mayo three from the wing with 17 seconds to go. The shot put Memphis up by 4, and pretty much left the Thunder out to dry.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder lost?
The great defense on Durant and Westbrook. Harden, Ibaka, and the rest of the Thunder's role players (save for Fisher and Mohammed) did a great job offensively tonight. But when the team's stars are struggling, there's only so much they can do to make up for it. Westbrook couldn't get to his mid-range spot, forcing him to take his shots from a bit further out and disrupting his flow. The Grizzlies weren't afraid of fouling him in the paint, and he couldn't muscle his way to many points because he was always guarded by someone of bigger size. Durant's poor performance was more puzzling, but he was always guarded by someone smaller than him. Arenas had a bit of an interesting tactic in letting Durant fall whenever Durant tried to back into him....it was odd to watch, to say the least. Arenas was also pretty quick at getting out to Durant on the perimeter, forcing him to alter his shot Durant was clearly bothered the entire game, and he had no one to help draw off pressure.
What is a key statistic to understanding tonight's game?
14 Offensive Rebounds for Memphis. It's their game, and they play it well. They had 12 points off of offensive rebounds tonight, which was a big factor in their win. I'm not really chalking this problem up to any fault of the Thunder, as this is the type of number Memphis gets every game....but man, it still hurts.
What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?
This loss drops the Thunder to 40-13, and leaves them only 2.5 games ahead of San Antonio for the top spot in the West. Regardless, the Thunder still have a 3-1 season series advantage against the Memphis Grizzlies. For reference, the Nuggets are now 11 games back, but the division crown is essentially locked up at this point.
Thunder Wonder: Serge Ibaka, for the efficient offensive game and 6 blocks.
Thunder Down Under: James Harden, for an all around solid game, including 5 assists, no turnovers, and 2 steals.
Thunder Blunder: Derek Fisher, for no points and two turnovers.
Thunder Plunderer: Orange Juice Mayonnaise, for the game-clinching shot.
Next Game: At the Miami Heat, Wednesday, April 4th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time