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December 18: Oklahoma City Thunder vs Memphis Grizzlies - Preview & Game Thread

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OKC plays Memphis after scratching out a win against the Bulls.

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

OKC plays Memphis on Wednesday night for the first time this season. The last time that the Thunder played the Grizzlies, both teams were incredibly different. The Thunder still had a dynamic duo in the form of Westbrook and George while the Grizzlies were shedding the last remnants of the Grit and Grind Era.

The match-up is very different now with Mike Conley moving onto greener pastures in Utah while Oklahoma City traded both of their franchise cornerstones within the space of a month. The game now does not have the same meaning of the play-off battles of the past, but it is important for the Thunder as they chase a playoff berth.

The game starts at 9:00 (EST) and Oklahoma City will look to build on the weekend win against Chicago. Memphis come into this game after a shock victory against the Miami Heat and will likely being feeling confident coming into a game that is winnable.

Three Points to Note for the Thunder

1. Turnovers

In my previous game previews, I stated that a propensity to turn over the ball could kill the Thunder and take the team out of games. Against Chicago, the Thunder were incredibly careless with the ball as the team committed 26 turnovers. The only two players who did notcommit a turnover were Danilo Gallinari and Abdel Nader; every other player had multiple turnovers. Dennis Schroder was the worst offender with 6 turnovers but Chris Paul was not far behind.

OKC was lucky in a sense that Chicago are a team who are actively trying to lose games and are coached by Jim Boylan. Taking care of the ball has to be a point of emphasis for the Oklahoma City do not need to worry about chasing games due to turnovers if they have taken care of the ball. This needs to be drilled into the players as the season progresses.

2. Take Over

If Chris Paul walked into the arena with Jay Z blasting on Wednesday against the Grizzlies, I do not think that anybody could criticise him. Paul’s play was immense down the stretch against Chicago, as he got Oklahoma City back into the game after the Thunder were down by 26 points. This type of deficit is usually impossible to come back and most players usually mark this game down as a loss before moving onto the next game. Chris Paul is not one of the players, as he consistently hit clutch shots down the stretch.

However, it was CP3’s leadership that was important in keeping the team motivated. It is natural for heads to drop and for confidence to be low while losing heavily, but Paul made a point of encouraging every player to keep talking and playing hard. This team talk kept the energy up and meant that the Thunder came out of the half believing that the game could be won instead of believing that the game was over.

Paul being traded during the season is still a possibility but I would lean towards keeping Chris until the end of the season. Paul has been important in terms of mentoring players like Shai Gilgeous Alexander and Darius Bazley. When you see the Thunder during stoppages during the game, you can clearly see Chris Paul in the ear of the young players as he provides advice on how to improve their games.

3. Gallinari’s Passing

Danilo Gallinari gets a lot of attention as an efficient scorer from the forward spot, but he has an underrated passing game. Gallo’s passing is not flashy and does not look spectacular during games, but it is highly effective for the Thunder. Danilo makes the correct reads on offence and throws passes with a good sense of timing. He seems to know when to drop the pass into his team-mate so that they can get the best possible look. This will be important against Memphis who have young defenders who do not have a lot of experience in terms of defending a motion offence where every player can move the ball.

The Thunder are unusual and different to most teams as they have five players who are comfortable moving the ball. Ball movement will be key in terms of forcing Grizzlies’ players to make difficult decisions on defence.

Grizzly Grit

1. Injuries

Grayson Allen will likely miss the game against the Thunder. Allen is suffering from ankle injury and his shooting is important for Memphis in terms of spacing the floor. Allen is shooting 46.7% from three-point land over his last 10 games.

2. Memphis’ Young Core

The Memphis Grizzlies embraced a full-scale rebuild this summer with the trade of Mike Conley signifying the end of the ‘Grit and Grind’ era. With both Marc Gasol and Conley gone, Memphis has leaned on youth which has been productive for their team.

The new Memphis GM, Zach Kleiman, comes from a legal background, but he is obviously very good at drafting players. Ja Morant is the type of franchise changing point guard and he already looks comfortable at the NBA level. Morant had 20/10 against Miami, as Memphis won in South Beach. Brandon Clarke was picked late in the first-round but has established himself as a valuable rotation piece. Clarke as a big man does the simple things well, one example of this would be that Brandon Clarke is leading the league in true shooting percentage as a rookie. This statistical achievement is unheard of, and Clarke has not even dipped into his bag of tools yet — he still has a jumper which has not been tested in the NBA yet.

Random Side-Note

Steven Adams is incredibly funny and provided another humourous moment after the win against Chicago.


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