Taking on the Memphis Grizzlies in FedExForum, the Oklahoma City Thunder also got to see Marc Gasol in his first game back from a sprained MCL that sidelined him for 23 games. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with yet another efficient 37-point performance, but the Thunder weren't able to get enough as the Grizzlies held out to claim the win 90-87 with 24 points from Courtney Lee and 23 from Zach Randolph.
The Grizzlies spent much of the game with a small lead, including a first quarter in which they outscored the Thunder 24-16 on the back of strong offensive rebounding. However, the Thunder took the lead in the second quarter through KD doin' his thing and some spirited bench play, and hung around even after the Grizzlies reclaimed the lead midway through the third. The game was close to the wire, with Serge Ibaka taking two potentially huge threes in the last few possessions of the game. Though he hit the second, the Grizzlies managed to outlast the Thunder long enough that, without timeouts, it was up to a Reggie Jackson full-court heave with a second left. No dice.
|Final - 1.14.2014
|Oklahoma City Thunder
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
It wasn't great, but it wasn't awful. The Thunder spent a lot of time down a handful of points, and the first quarter was really worrying in how much the Grizzlies were beasting the Thunder on the glass. The script flipped in the second quarter, with the bench coming out strong. Steven Adams did a great job both on the glass and defensively, and when Kevin Durant came back in, he carried the Thunder on offense while the Grizzlies struggled to get shots to fall on offense.
The game's closing moments weren't as great. It was a game up for grabs throughout, with the Grizzlies shooting 29.4% in the fourth quarter. Nobody stepped up to help KD though, as his 9 points on 4-for-8 shooting in the fourth went "supported" by 11 points on 3-for-12 shooting from the rest of the team. Serge Ibaka hit a stepback three (his only points of the quarter) to get the Thunder close, but it was barely in reach even after that as the Grizzlies hit both free throws to leave the Thunder with about a second to score a three with no timeouts remaining.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?
For many stretches of the game, it just felt like the Grizzlies were outworking the Thunder to a point of dominance. It's not X-and-O's, but on the road against a team that prides itself on "Grit and Grind" and just got their superstar center back after a month and a half, you had better come out playing hard if you wanted to win. The Thunder's effort was inconsistent. In the first quarter, the Grizz claimed an 8-0 edge in offensive rebounding – a telling statistic in a quarter where both teams had field-goal percentages in the mid-thirties.
A strong performance (and a shot of energy) from the bench evened that advantage out as the game progressed, but the Grizzlies kept grinding it out while the Thunder didn't. The Grizzlies had more free throws tonight, a rare statistic matchup for the Thunder to lose in any game. The fourth quarter in which the game felt up for grabs never saw a sustained Thunder run where they took the lead even once – they were always down three points, it felt. While it wasn't without its moments (such as that second quarter), this game just often felt like a bland effort from the Thunder.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
In spite of strong performances from Kevin Durant (37 points on 28 shots) and Reggie Jackson (17 points on 14 shots), the team shot 40.7% from the field and 23.8% from three. The Grizzlies haven't been a great defensive team this year, but with Marc back in the lineup, they really limited the Thunder. Tayshaun Prince did all he could he to challenge Durant, and a missed field goal here or there might've been the difference in this game. Reggie Jackson didn't make a single field goal in the fourth quarter.
Credit the rest of the team for strong rebounding and defensive performances, but Durant and Jackson desperately needed offensive help tonight. Is that weird to say when they combining for an efficient 54 points? Well, the rest of the team really sucked. Serge Ibaka shot 5-for-13 for 11 points. Jeremy Lamb went 3-for-9 (no threes) for 9 points to lead the bench. Nobody else scored more than 5 points, with Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins in the starting lineup combining for two points. That's just frustrating. The core of this team can carry the bulk of the offense, but without Westbrook, they just can't do it completely alone.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
Well, it was a three-point decision, so this isn't a loss with striking long-term consequences. We've known that the performance of the supporting cast will fluctuate here and there with Westbrook out, and this was just one of the bad nights against a very motivated Grizzlies team playing great basketball recently. What's most worrying in this one is the nagging lack of consistent effort, but it's not something that's been much of a problem to date for this team. Chalk this one up as a tough L and move on to this next game.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant - 37 points (15-for-28 field goal shooting, 7-for-9 free throw shooting), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
Thunder Down Under: Reggie Jackson - 17 points (6-for-14 field goal shooting, 3-for-5 three-point shooting) 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 7 turnovers
Thunder Blunder: Derek Fisher - 3 points (1-for-5 field goal shooting), 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 personal foul, nothing else in 21 minutes
Thunder Plunderer: Courtney Lee - 24 points (9-for-15 field goal shooting, 2-for-3 three-point shooting), 5 rebounds, 2 steals
Next game: vs. Houston Rockets @ Toyota Center (Thursday, January 16th @ 8:30 CMT)