The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Memphis Grizzlies on the road, 103-100. In a game typical of what we have come to expect over the years, both teams clawed and scratched their way to the finish line, with the lead changing hands multiple times in the final minutes of play. However, Russell Westbrook’s long distance shooting shut the door on Memphis, and perhaps their last shot at chasing the Thunder for the 6th seed in the playoff race.
Westbrook once again had an eye-popping game, finishing with 45 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds, and 5 steals (against 7 turnovers). His run of 7 consecutive triple-doubles was finally broken, and Thunder fans will have to wait some more to see if Westbrook can surpass Oscar Robertson’s record of triple-doubles in a season, which Westbrook is now tied with Oscar at 41. But it was the way that Westbrook did it on this night, resembling more a Stephen Curry or Damian Lillard rather than LeBron James, choosing to shoot from long range rather than bull his way to the rim.
In fact, the Grizz were mostly effective on the interior for much of the night. Marc Gasol (23-5-5-4-2) and Zach Randolph out-muscled the Thunder in the paint, with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter frequently frustrated. With the Grizzlies making a final push in the 4th quarter behind Z-Bo and half-man/half-old-man Vince Carter, the game was in doubt until the final seconds of play. When, with the Thunder hanging on by a point, Westbrook dropped his 8th three of the night, and 3rd of the 4th quarter, to give OKC the cushion it needed to grab the win.
With the Thunder now up 3.5 games over the Grizz, the 6th seed is a virtual lock. OKC trails the Clippers for the 5th seed by 2 games and the Jazz by 3, so it is unlikely OKC can push into a more favorable matchup with only 4 games remaining. That said, they must win a couple more to make it secure. Tonight’s win, the 2nd win of a back-to-back, is a step in the right direction as the season winds to a close.