The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Memphis Grizzlies at home, 99-95. The Thunder snapped their 4-game losing streak in one of the most gut-churning ways possible. After trailing to the lottery-bound Grizz for nearly the entire game, vacillating between apathy and incompetence, OKC came to life in the nick of time to get the win and administer some salve to the gaping flesh wound that is their post-ASW stretch.
Down 10 with under 5 minutes to play, and showing virtually no signs at all that they might be able to string together enough baskets to even make a run at it, OKC rediscovered their secret defensive powers. Closing out the game on an 18-4 run, they forced Memphis to shoot 1-10 over that stretch, including 0-4 from three while committing 2 turnovers. OKC in the meantime barnburned its way to 56% shooting over that stretch, including 6-8 from the free throw line and Russell Westbrook’s stupefying 3-pointers that led to the win.
In this stretch, Westbrook had 12 points, 3 rebounds, an assist and no turnovers. He shot 4-7 FG, 2-5 3FG, 2-2 FT.— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) March 4, 2019
Avery Bradley in the same span was 1-5, 0-2 3FG, 2-2 FT, no assists and a turnover. https://t.co/31Pi8zhH1e
If you want an apt visual of this game, here you go.
Seriously, hats off to any of you other Thunder fans who managed to make it through to the end of this dumpster fire of a win.
By and large, it was bad. Really, really bad. The Thunder didn’t work to get good shots to take, didn’t hit the ones they did take, and the backcourt duo of Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder were a combined 7-26 for 21 points and 7 turnovers through 3 quarters.
The only guys who showed any signs of competency were:
- Steven Adams, looking pleasantly spry and sprightly. Adams hustled his way to 13 points and 22 boards, including 8 offensive. Too bad he went 1-6 from the charity stripe, but otherwise, he was OKC’s best player on the night. Makes me happy to see him play like this.
- Abdel Nader(!) was the most competent shooter for much of the night, giving the team some much needed early offense, and finishing with 15 on the night, including 3-6 from three.
- It won’t show up in the box score, but Terrance Ferguson worked his butt off defensively, even as Grizzlies guard Avery Bradley got rolling. Undeterred, Ferg stayed with it and helped force Bradley into some key misses down the stretch that helped turn the tides. He then hit two huge FTs that iced the game.
Nobody will likely say anything about it, but I kind of feel like Westbrook was playing hurt, but did it because Paul George was out. Or if George had been playing, I wonder if Russ would have sat this one out. He was oddly passive most of the night, even as he was taking on a bevy of guards he normally would have torn apart in the post. But by the looks of things, he knew he didn’t have it, and through some small miracle managed to hit the biggest buckets in the game. He buried a deep three to cut the lead to five with under 5 minutes to play, followed it up with a highly contested three (his 13th attempt of the night!) with a minute to go, knotting the game at 93, and then dropped in a cotton shot to give OKC their first lead since mid-2nd quarter.
This is a game OKC probably should have lost, as they played as a ‘team’ that appeared to have just met 20 minutes before tip-off. But I kept telling myself, they only need one good quarter to take it against this Grizz team, and that’s what happened, even as they made us all sweat it out far too long. In my opinion, this isn’t a “pick it apart to figure out what went wrong” kind of game. Just about everything went FUBAR. But rather, it was a game OKC could have folded, but they pulled together just long enough to prevent that. It’s not cause for celebration to be sure, but it shows some resolve missing in the previous losses.
This game changes little in the sense that OKC is still trending in the wrong direction, even as teams such as the Trail Blazers, Rockets, and Jazz are hot on their trails. But nothing worth fighting for comes easy, and OKC could have easily punted on this game after last night’s debacle, but they didn’t. And they used that defensive energy and focus to unspool a Grizzlies team primed for the upset. It’s not something you’d hang in a museum, but in the words of Nuke LaLoosh, it’s still better than losing.
Next game: @ Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, March 5 at 7PM CST
Also, Knob Creek Rye Manhattans, in case you were wondering, and yes, we started in early on them tonight.