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Thunder prepare to climb mountain vs. Grizzlies

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With the Thunder facing serious injury shortages, they could be fielding one of their worst teams of all time. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are rolling and take no prisoners.

2014-15 NBA Season Game 6
(Won 5)
(Lost 3)
November 7th, 2014
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
7:00 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, SportSouth
Injury Report: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Mitch McGary, Anthony Morrow, Andre Roberson, Grant Jerrett (Out),
Previous Matchups: Thunder won WCSF 4-3, won regular season series 3-1
Probable Starters
Mike Conley PG Reggie Jackson
Courtney Lee SG Jeremy Lamb
Tony Allen SF Lance Thomas
Zach Randolph PF Serge Ibaka
Marc Gasol C Kendrick Perkins

The Thunder and the Grizzlies couldn't be meeting under more opposite circumstances. Oklahoma City is rolling into the game with a litany of injuries and only one true wing player to speak of. Meanwhile, Memphis is waltzing around with a full roster and is looking as powerful as ever. Despite that fact, Grizzlies fans are well aware of the pain that Thunder fans now must feel. To start last season, they endured a major injury to Gasol that forced the team into a game of catchup for the rest of the year.

Four games in the hole, the Thunder must now control the damage that's been done. Some might say that this game would be a good opportunity to tank and avoid further injury, but I think there's definite value to be had by going all in and risking the health of our remaining players.

Why? Simple. The Grizzlies have taken only 15 three attempts from the field per game up to this point, good for 6th least in the league. That doesn't mean the Grizzlies are terrible, since Courtney Lee, Quincy Pondexter, and Mike Conley can generally hold down the fort. Additionally, their half-court ball movement is so good that they can find their share of open shots. But fast breaks aren't as frequent, and I think that's the key to beating this gigantic Thunder team.

Of course, all I'm saying is that the Thunder have a chance. A lot of pieces need to fall into place in order for that to happen. For one, Steven Adams is going to have to figure out how to contain Gasol on the high post. He's such an effective passer from the position that it's hard to play him close, but his jumper is simply too deadly to ignore. Meanwhile, Ibaka is going to have to avoid fouling Zach Randolph, who will constantly attack the rim with the force of 20 elephants.

On the offensive end, the Thunder will need to rely on lots of big men jumpers, aggressive drives, and long offensive sets. It's simply the nature of the beast when there's so few scorers in the lineup. That's always a risky proposition in the NBA, and can lead to catastrophically bad nights if the ball doesn't bounce your way. The lack of offense also really hampers OKC in crunch time, since having go-to options can really help your team in those situations.

There's still a small possibility of one player exploding and carrying the team's offensive load, much as Perry Jones III managed to do against the Denver Nuggets. But it's hard to see that player emerging. Reggie Jackson has his hands full, and likely can't deliver over 40. Serge Ibaka can't create his own shot, so his offense almost always hinges on matchups. Jeremy Lamb is the only realistic option in my opinion, but he's coming off a pre-season where he shot 30% from the floor and was 14% from three. Furthermore, I've never really seen that takeover glint enter his eyes. He always seems too distant and unsure of himself on the floor, and that doesn't inspire confidence when we really could use 20 points from him right about now.

All in all, this game will probably end up getting out of hand at some point. The Thunder should be able to hang with the Grizz for a while on their defense and hustle alone, but eventually, something is going to go wrong. Ibaka will stop hitting from outside. Reggie will get too aggressive. Turnovers will mount. The three point line won't be covered. Gasol will go off. Really, it's just going to be a matter of time before the Thunder are 20 points down and you're asking yourself where the game went.

Before I go- This will be the first game for hardship signee Ishmael Smith. I've seen him play a couple of times before, and my general impression is that he's a quick quard who likes to get to the rim, but struggles with his shot. It will be interesting to see how much of a chance of pace he provides in relation to Telfair, and whether Telfair will continue to get regular minutes. My best guess is that Brooks is going to experiment with different things, but will likely give more minutes to whomever's having the better night.

Prediction: Memphis Grizzlies 97, Oklahoma City Thunder 83.

What do you think of tonight's game? Let us know in the comments!