The Oklahoma City Thunder won the 2nd of a back-to-back series of games this week by dominating the Memphis Grizzlies on the road, winning 116-100. The win marks the 4th game in a row that the Thunder have won and 11 of their last 12. Unlike last night's game against the Hawks, this one was not in doubt down the stretch and the starters got a chance to rest in the end.
The Thunder were led by Russell Westbrook, who rebounded from a poor shooting effort in the previous game by scoring a game-high 27 points on 7-12 shooting, including 11-11 from the FT stripe. He was followed up by Kevin Durant, who scored 18 points, and Durant was matched by Jeremy Lamb, who scored a career high 18 points on 7-9 shooting.
The Grizzlies were led by PG Mike Conley, who finished with 20 points and 9 assists. The Grizz were without Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol as well as Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
While I am always happy to see the Thunder perform well against the Grizzlies, it is important to mention the caveat that the Grizz were shorthanded, missing several of their key players, most notably Gasol. Gasol is really the key to everything, as his ability to step out into the high post and either hit the mid-range jumper, drive, or set up Zach Randolph in the blocks compromises so much of the Thunder's defense. However, without Gasol in the game, OKC had little trouble protecting the paint, forcing Randolph and Kosta Koufos into a difficult shooting night.
What made the game most notable, despite these caveats, is that the Thunder continue to improve in all facets of the game. Their defense was once again the standard bearer and the bench continued to produce a remarkable 52 points on the night. Andre Roberson, who was actually named starter once again (A rookie starting 2 games in a row? Shocking!) chipped in 7 points of his own, including a 3-pointer.
Westbrook was once again the engine that made the attack work, and he did it by finishing the plays that he didn't last game. Westbrook shot an efficient 7-12 from the floor and got easy points at the FT line on his way to a game high point total.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
The Thunder used a decisive run at the end of the 2nd half to turn what was a close game into a double digit lead. These late 1st half surges are becoming the norm for the Thunder, enabling them to go into halftime with a solid cushion (which is a good thing, since OKC tends to struggle in the 3rd quarters).
The run was fueled by Westbrook, who spearheaded a 10-0 run where he started the scoring and then proceeded to assist on 4 straight baskets. Conley stemmed the bleeding, but Westbrook answered with a 3-pointer that almost but not quite finished the run. That exclamation point was added by Perry Jones, who put back a missed Serge Ibaka 3-pointer at the buzzer.
From there on out, the Thunder were content to play the game even and run out the clock.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
The Grizzlies are renowned for their defense, but they were in for a tough night with Gasol and elite wing defender Tony Allen on the sideline. The Thunder responded by shooting 56.3% from the floor and a very strong 9-18 from the 3-point line on the night.
The Thunder's 3-point offense will never be considered with the Spurs or the Warriors, but we are gradually seeing improvement not just from their shooting percentages, but from the way they are setting things up to get good looks. On this night, Lamb was the big recipient, knocking down 3-4 on his way to 18 points.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
The Thunder return home after their 2 road games to play the Lakers at home. Most notably, Kobe Bryant has returned to the Lakers' lineup and OKC will be seeing Kobe for the first time this season.
The Thunder will likely continue to emphasize their defense going forward, and as we saw vs the Grizzlies, if they can create a cushion, it becomes very difficult for the opposition to catch up.
|Final - 12.11.2013||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||25||32||32||27||116|
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, 27 points, 6 rebound, 9 assists, 2 steals
Thunder Down Under: Jeremy Lamb, career high 18 points on 7-9 shooting
Thunder Blunder: none
Thunder Plunderer: Mike Conley, 20 points, 9 assists
Next game: vs Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, Dec. 13 at 7PM CDT