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Thunder vs Grizzlies, final score: OKC shows grit, comes back from 20 down to defeat Memphis in OT, 102-101

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It’s a win, I guess.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Box Score | Grizzly Bear Blues

The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in overtime, 102-101. In a game where two teams who are far from where they thought they’d be a quarter of the way through the season, it was only fitting that they would go to OT to really settle whose season was cratering in a more aggressive fashion. And if you didn’t know, now you do — OKC and Memphis going to OT is kind of a thing.

Never the less, OKC snaps an 8 game road losing streak and once again pulls within a game of .500.

The Thunder were ‘led’ by Russell Westbrook’s triple-double (20-14-11), which doesn’t really give full effect to how poorly Westbrook played for much of the game. He shot only 7-29 on the night and a staggering, J.R. Smith -esque 1-12 from 3-point range. Not to be outdone, his running mate Carmelo Anthony chipped in with 7-20 of his own, meaning the two primary scorers for OKC shot a combined 14-49 for the win and I didn’t even think that could be possible. And stars and garters, the fact that it is THIS team that earns THIS earmark is the stuff of legend.

To his credit, Westbrook did play the final possession better than he has in the past. With the Grizz missing a free throw at the other end of the court that would have put them up by 3 (very smart foul by Jerami Grant to prevent JaMychal Green from an easy dunk and subsequently missed both FTs), OKC had 8 seconds to noodle around. As we all know, 5 seconds is 5 seconds, and yet I messaged R.K. Anthony at that moment that I needed some of his Rolaids because I fully expected a contested three to go up with 5 seconds left on the clock. Instead, Westbrook got a clear-out on the left side of the lane and attacked aggressively, drawing the foul on Marc Gasol. Westbrook, with a shaky calmness, sank the two FTs to give OKC a one point lead.

The Grizz still had 5 seconds (hey!) to go and the full length of the court to work, which can actually yield some pretty wide open shots. But Andre Roberson, the much maligned guy who is afraid to shoot but is absolutely critical to OKC winning close games, played Tyreke Evans beautifully in the transition attempt. You have to watch what he does a couple times to see it.

Robes knows that Evans will be hunting for Marc Gasol to set a screen, either to free Evans to get to the rim or to fade for an open jumper. So Robes, instead of meeting Evans at the point of attack 80 feet from the rim and letting Evans lead him right into a pick, retreats and goes to find Gasol himself. And once he does, he crouches behind Gasol, waits for Evans to either go to the sideline or back to the middle, and Robes knew that Steven Adams was sitting right behind him telling him which way to force Evans.

When the sideline is taken away, Robes forces Evans back into the middle and right into a trap with Carmelo trailing. With 2 seconds remaining, Melo takes a gamble and reaches in to grab the ball, taking away Evans’ chance at a shot. It was a risky move because it was already a low percentage shot and from the wrong angle would look like Melo was reaching in, but on this fantastically morbid night, the gamble paid off. OKC wins.

Random notes

  • How about this - Adams, in the month of December, is averaging nearly a 20-10 on 72% shooting. But let’s keep on posting Melo up on the block and see what happens.
  • Alex Abrines, getting his 2nd start of the season, did a pretty good version of Paul George, with PG out again with injury. All Abrines did was score 20 points on 7-10 shooting and 6-8 from 3-point range, including the first 6 points of OT. (stop flirting with me, Alex Abrines’ jump shot! Ok, maybe a little) On top of that, he may not be a great defender yet, but at least he’s not afraid to try.
  • 18-31 from the free throw line. I mean...
  • Westbrook is now shooting a robust 24% from 3-point range in December. Whatever it was a year ago, is no longer.
  • Even though I feel like I need to take a hot shower to wash this game off of me, OKC has still won 4-5 in the month and next will face a struggling Hornets team at home.
  • Again, Steven Adams - 21 points on 7-11 shooting with 6 ORBs. How he is not a focal point for nearly every offensive set at this point is beyond me. He’s the only Thunder guy who is currently performing consistently better than average. Everyone else is hovering in a C- range at best.
  • Grant returned, but Planet Lovetron did not. Maybe next time.

Next game: vs Charlotte Hornets on Monday, Dec. 11 at 8PM EST.