Tonight, the Oklahoma City Thunder look to extend momentum while avenging a previous setback to the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.
Coming into this evening's affair, both Oklahoma City and Memphis own modest two-game winning streaks. However, when these teams last met Dec. 29, the Grizzlies routed OKC 114-80 from the Grindhouse.
In that contest, Memphis' staunch defense limited Russell Westbrook to 21 points on 6-of-19 FGM. Overall, Oklahoma City shot a scant 33/18/68 while being outscored 62-33 in a lopsided starting-unit battle.
Meanwhile, Marc Gasol led all scorers with 25 points. The former Defensive Player of the Year added eight rebounds and five blocks to his impressive line. Additionally, Zach Randolph (21, eight rebs) and Troy Daniels (22) ignited an explosive 52-point Memphis bench display.
The Grizzlies’ dominance was so complete that a visibly frustrated Russell Westbrook was ejected midway through the penultimate frame for arguing with official Brian Forte. From that point, Oklahoma City fell into a 49-35 chasm as its reserves finished the night's forgettable proceedings.
When competitive enmity resumes between these long-time conference rivals, each team will benefit from moderately upgraded health. For Memphis, starting point guard Mike Conley has returned. Likewise, Oklahoma City will enjoy the perimeter contributions of Victor Oladipo and Cameron Payne.
Even with a fully stable roster, the Thunder will again face the league's top defensive unit (101.4 pp100p) opposite the 24-16 Grizzlies.
For OKC to overcome this formidable task, ball movement is critical. Oklahoma City must improve upon a prior nine assist, eighteen-turnover breakdown vs. Memphis with efficient passing and well-composed offensive sets.
The Thunder cannot once more fall into the lure of isolation-heavy play vs. an opportunistic and savvy Grizzlies defense.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
As stated, Oklahoma City has won two straight. The latest victory came against a compromised Chicago Bulls iteration. While Jimmy Butler was a virtual non-factor, the Thunder nonetheless satisfied expectations by defeating Chicago 109-94.
OKC’s triumvirate of Westbrook (21 pts), Steven Adams (22 pts), and Enes Kanter (20 pts, 11 rebs) lifted the Thunder to its first road win in five games.
On that triumphant night, Russell Westbrook fell just a rebound shy of tying his net triple-double output from last season. Although, more importantly, Oklahoma City claimed consecutive 15-point victories in an east-west showcase.
Opposite Memphis, for OKC to extend its winning ways, Kanter and Adams will need to be effective decision makers from the painted area. Further, Coach Donovan would do well to flank his talented big men with a competent shooter on the court’s strong side.
A crafty team effort will be required to shift the formidable moving parts of Memphis’ lockdown defensive fortress.
While the Grizzlies most recently held a streaking Utah collective to 79 points during an 88-79 home victory, the win that preceded it was perhaps Memphis’ crowning achievement amid a noteworthy season.
Jan. 6 the Grizzlies handed juggernaut Golden State a resounding 128-119 overtime setback. This marked just the sixth time that the Warriors have tasted defeat through 39 games.
Zach Randolph (27), Mike Conley (27 pts, 12 assts) and Marc Gasol (23) highlighted a daring 49-21 conclusive finish at Oracle to put Memphis squarely atop the association’s radar of teams to reckon with.
To find repeat success vs. Oklahoma City, Memphis should simply follow the template that produced victory Dec 29.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER KEYS TO VICTORY
- Effective ball movement
- Use controlled pace; but do not fall into Memphis’ plodding style
- Feature Kanter/Adams
- Westbrook should think ‘pass first.’
- Stay composed
- Win the battle of the bench
INJURY REPORTS/PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
The Oklahoma City Thunder have no injuries to report. The Memphis Grizzlies list both Brandan Wright (ankle) and Deyonta Davis (foot) as questionable for tonight’s contest.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
- Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
- Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
- Small Forward: Andre Roberson
- Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis
- Center: Steven Adams
- Point Guard: Mike Conley
- Shooting Guard: Tony Allen
- Small Forward: Chandler Parsons
- Power Forward: JaMychal Green
- Center: Marc Gasol
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER -4.5
Though the Grizzlies prevailed in lopsided fashion the last time these teams met, both the Vegas books and our partners at numberFire list the Oklahoma City Thunder as moderate favorites for tonight’s contest.
Oklahoma City sports a 4-1 record in its previous five home games. A well-rested Memphis Grizzlies squad is 2-3 in its last five road outings. Overall, this season Oklahoma City is 14-6 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are 10-9 away from the FedExForum.
Tonight’s key matchup pits Marc Gasol vs. Steven Adams. While Adams seemingly improves with each performance, Gasol will represent a true litmus-test challenge to these strides.
Memphis likes to run offense through the 7’1 Gasol; therefore it behooves Adams to remain physical on both ends against his All-Star counterpart.
Oklahoma City (23-16) sits one game behind Memphis (24-16) for fifth place in the Western Conference ranks.