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Oklahoma City Thunder vs Memphis Grizzlies - start time, preview and game thread

An old favourite comes back to town

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Broadcast Details:

Start time - 6:00 p.m. (CT)

Broadcaster - Bally Sports Oklahoma

The Thunder tip off tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies after a few bruising losses. In the last four games games, the Thunder’s defense has fallen off a cliff and the team has been unable to effectively guard the 3-point line. Over this time period, Oklahoma City have allowed 87 makes from downtown.

The last three days have provided the Thunder with respite and the opportunity for Coach Daigneault to work on the team’s defense. He has a tough job at the moment; his task is to assemble a competent unit on the less glamorous end of the floor without Luguentz Dort, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Kenrich Williams.

In an odd way, this challenge is a Kobayashi Maru for the coaching staff. There is very little chance that Coach Daigneault will be able to find a solution that can stop the bleeding and turn the Thunder back into a resolute, resilient team on defense. But, I do not believe that the coaching staff should stop trying to solve this issue even during a tanking season.

This is an opportunity for Coach Daigneault to develop his acumen and ability to make adjustments on the fly. A broad understanding of strategy and tactics is a necessity for teams in today’s NBA. Tyronn Lue’s stewardship of the Clippers is the perfect example of a coach maximising a roster.

Lue has navigated injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George without much issue. The Clippers, without Kawhi, went to the Western Conference Finals and drastically outperformed expectations.

This season has been much of the same. We have all waited for a bad run of games that would consign LA to the tank but that streak has never materialised. Through a combination of Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann and Luke Kennard, the Clippers have managed to keep their head above water.

His adjustments have kept the Clippers winning games despite all of the injuries. A coach must be able to use their feel for strategy to get a team playing above their level. Coach Daigneault has been really good at getting the most out of the Thunder’s roster over the last two years and this is just another opportunity for him to grow,

The Thunder’s opponents tonight feature one of the most beloved Thunder players in the team’s history. Steven Adams will finally return to Oklahoma City and play in front of the fans who roared the Kiwi on for 7 excellent seasons.

During his time with the Thunder, Steven Adams was a tone-setter and led by example. He was physical, unselfish and fiercely loyal to his teammates. Those qualities endeared him to the fanbase and meant that his teammates looked to Steven as a leader.

When the Grizzlies traded for Steven, nobody could quite understand the trade. Adams’ box score statistics do not meet his current salary and his fit did not seem to make sense. Memphis traded Jonas Valanciunas, a stretch-5 for a non-shooting center. The deal was widely criticised for the fact that Adams would impact the spacing available to Morant.

It is now clear that Zach Kleiman, the Grizzlies’ general manager, pulled off another masterstroke by getting Steven. Adams’ screen-setting generates so much separation for Morant to drive and attack the basket. FunakiStats had an excellent clip on Twitter which shows Steven’s value to Grizzlies.

On this possession, the first screen takes Morant’s defender out of the possession and gives Ja the freedom to attack the basket. The second screen from Adams is even better, he rolls to the rim and presents a scoring threat which means that the defense has to pay attention to him. Steven is shooting 62.5% within 3ft of the rim this season, sagging off him is foolish.

Steven then spots the help defender rotating middle and plants himself in his path. Adams walls off the help defense and Morant gets one of the easiest looks at the rim that you will see this season. Steven’s space creation has been excellent and is the ideal complement for Morant.

Defending their pick and roll is going to be difficult for the Thunder. Going under a screen on Morant is not as effective as it used to be; Ja’s improvement as a shooter has taken that option off the table.

Hedging on the screen will not work either as the hedge will allow Morant to just knife his way to the rim and finish. He is too quick and skilful for this sort of coverage. Oklahoma City are going to have to go over screens and fight through contact to be able to restrict Ja’s scoring and Steven’s passing.