Time: 7PM CST
Location: FedEx Forum, Memphis
Counterpart: Grizzly Bear Blues
The Thunder are back in action tonight in Memphis to take on their old friends the Grizzlies. Following a week where our collective hearts sank just like the Thunder did in the standings, it rebounded a little bit with a big road win over Toronto two nights after falling at home in OT.
The Grizz are fully embracing the role of spoiler as this season winds down. Despite heading toward the lottery and currently 15 games under .500, they have recently upset the Rockets, Jazz, and Trail Blazers. And as we saw during the 1st half of OKC’s recent win over these Grizzlies, the Thunder needed a big 4th quarter to overcome a double-digit (albeit without Paul George) deficit to win at home. In other words, Memphis can cause problems, and the Thunder cannot look past them, as OKC has a key home stretch coming up (Pacers, Nuggets, Mavericks, Lakers) that will likely determine where they seed in the playoffs.
The Thunder rediscovered a useful formula in Toronto — the big question is to what degree it is repeatable. They knocked down 20-43 from 3-point range, which is nice, but more importantly it was the way they created those shots that meant the most. Instead of pull-up jumpers and contested shots from the elbows, the Thunder had much improved side-to-side motion which sprung the likes of Terrance Ferguson and Jerami Grant for open looks. On top of that, George regained his shooting form and aggression and was the offensive rock OKC needed. And in the middle, Steven Adams was far more active than he has been of late, and within the flow of the offense. Steven Adams, playmaker. It’s kind of a big deal.
The Grizzlies are inventing new ways of being shorthanded. Tonight, here’s their injury report, via GBB:
MEMPHIS- Dillon Brooks (Out, Toe); Kyle Anderson (Out, Shoulder); Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, Quad); C.J. Miles (Out, Foot); Avery Bradley (Out, Shin Contusion); Joakim Noah (Doubtful, Knee Soreness)
On top of that, Mike Conley is questionable as well. Which means we’ll still somehow probably see OKC fall behind tonight 25-12 until they start to figure things out.
This is it — the trial run before the final gauntlet. Let’s hope Russell Westbrook & co. are ready to do the smart work early and often. And as they recently learned in Indiana, and as we saw in the Raptors’ loss to the Hornets, good teams can get beat when they keep putting themselves in a position where a 50 foot heave can beat you.
Who do you think will win tonight?
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