A Very Confusing, Frustrating Loss
In what seems like the millionth matchup between these two teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder have lost to the Memphis Grizzlies, 92-100. Despite the fact that it was a 8 point loss, this game was very equal from a strategic point of view. Both teams scored a lot in the paint, both teams rebounded well, both teams were putrid from beyond the arc, both teams had similar assist to turnover ratios, both teams got to the line a lot, and neither team had a go-to option in the fourth quarter.
But the Grizzlies won this game because....
- They made more shots.
- They controlled the pace of the game after the first quarter.
- They put Jeff Green on Russell Westbrook in the second quarter, after which Russ went 1-10 from the field.
- Westbrook entered the game with 6 minutes to go in the fourth, which was 3 minutes too late.
- Enes Kanter entered the game with 3:29 to go in the fourth, which was 5.5 minutes too late.
So really, I think this loss boils down to the coaching and lack of personnel. The Thunder simply were not able to control the pace of the game once Green was keeping Westbrook in check. Green was athletic enough to stay with Westbrook and stuff him at the rim, killing the Thunder's ability to push it out in transition. So, just as the Grizzlies like it, virtually the entire game became a slog-it-out half court foul fest. Anthony Morrow, perhaps the Thunder's best player in transition, shot 2 of 9 after the Green switch took place. Before the switch, Morrow was 3 of 4.
Sorting Out Twelve Players with 8 Points or More
There were no big stars in this game. I mean, Green went 4-4 in the second, and Kanter went 5-7 in the third. But that's about as close as you got to one player getting hot and dominating this whole thing. Mostly, it came as a result of both teams seeing poor shooting performances from their point guards. The physical defense of Green prevented Westbrook from scoring after the first, while Mike Conley simply couldn't hit the open shots he was given. As a result, both teams had to force the ball inside, and the bigs had to work for the majority of their points. With those two outlets of normal offensive production not so readily available, both teams had to look to their wing players to produce.
As it turns out, the Grizz wing players had the better game. The Grizzlies simply had better inside out ball movement, and it led to a lot of good opportunities for Green and Lee on the weak side. Even though Adams and Kanter were were able to equal Gasol and Randolph on the scoreboard, they fell hopelessly short when it came to passing. The Grizz duo would finish with 7 assists, while the Thunder's bruise brothers had just 1.
The Grizzlies were also able to use their two point guard lineup off the bench to great effect. Nick Calathes and Beno Udrih shot a combined 7 of 10 from the floor, and 6 of 6 in the paint. The PGs worked off of each other a little bit, but mostly got their stuff in transition and working around the bigs. The Grizzlies got their PGs deep by keeping their bigs in the high post, as you might expect.
The Second Quarter Run
Looking over the stats, I keep going back to the 31 point second quarter that Memphis was able to have. A lot of crazy things happened in that second quarter.
- The Grizzlies only took one shot from mid-range, with the rest of them coming from the paint or three.
- Mitch McGary played 8 minutes, while Steve Novak saw his lone minute of the game.
- The Grizzlies were able to get into the bonus with 6:54 to go, and generated four points out of that when it was all said and done.
- There was a possession where the Thunder missed four(!) straight shots. It was followed by Marc Gasol blocking(!) a Novak pick and pop three. That was followed by three straight possessions of Westbrook missing at the rim, with the last miss being an outright block by Jeff Green. During this sequence, a 41-35 Thunder lead became a 41-43 Thunder deficit.
- Zach Randolph hit a three in the fourth. That's just bad luck.
- Scott Brooks cited missed layups, free throws, and threes as the reason for the loss after the game. He's probably just as frustrated as all of us.
- OKC tied Memphis with 30 points in the paint during the first half. Memphis would outscore OKC 30-20 in the second half.
- The Grizzlies took 14 threes in the first half, but just 7 in the second half.
- At halftime, Rex Kalamian told the FSOK crew that he wanted more kickouts and threes. The Thunder did take three more threes in the second half, but those three extra attempts were during the final 1:07.
- Singler's 13 points were a season high of OKC, and his usefulness as a role player who can score off ball was easily the most positive thing about this game.
- Kanter has had a double double in 10 of his last 12.
- Russell Westbrook is such a clutch player. Did anyone see him rebound his own missed free throw, and then dish it out to an open Morrow for a potentially game saving three?
- The Thunder started the third quarter 8 of 10, but couldn't hit a single field goal after 4:22. Calathes was on Westbrook for the second half of the quarter, making the whole thing seem really puzzling. Truth is, the Thunder couldn't hit their jumpers and had problems moving the ball against the speed of Memphis 2 PG lineup. And Westbrook wasn't in scoring mode, as he usually isn't during that time of game.
- Anyone wanting to fire Brooks over this loss specifically doesn't know what they're talking about. OKC is missing four key rotational players, two of which are absolutely essential to winning the battle of the boards and shutting down Gasol/Randolph. A healthy Thunder team, even without KD, wins this game IMO.
- Westbrook wasn't able to find much of his "cotton shot" tonight, just above the free throw line at either elbow. He was also forced into that uncomfortable zone in the center of the lane a couple of times.
Thunder Wonder: Enes Kanter. His defense might hurt, but it's completely coverable on the bench or next to Serge Ibaka. The points and the boards are there, and that's what's important.
Thunder Down Under: Kyle Singler, utility man
Thunder Blunder: Mitch McGary, whose 3 open missed jumpers and suspect defense were critical
Thunder Plunderer: Jeff Green, who of course teases us by leading his team in scoring after he could never seem to do so for OKC
Next Game: Versus the Houston Rockets, Sunday, April 5th, Noon Central Daylight Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!