This game was the complete opposite of the first game against the Grizzlies. In the first meeting, Memphis (7-15) jumped out to a good lead and surrendered some before halftime before folding completely late in the game. Tonight, the Thunder returned the favor.
Tonight’s ball game wasn’t lost in the second half or late in the fourth quarter though. Tonight’s game was lost in the final three minutes of the second quarter. OKC had ripped off 13 in a row to go up 51-30. But right on cue, Memphis took a timeout, OKC got careless with the basketball and by halftime, the lead was just seven. Memphis outscored OKC 32-19 in the fourth, but like I said, it was the 18-4 run right before halftime that lost this game. The steam and the excitement went right out of the building. When you’re already 2-20 and have lost your last 18 of 19, you can kind of feel what’s coming.
The Thunder held the lead for the third quarter and finally relinquished early the fourth as the Grizzlies tied it at 85. Foul trouble had the Thunder handcuffed as Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook, Nick Collison, Damien Wilkins and Joe Smith all had to fight disqualification.
For once, the Thunder didn’t shoot poorly from the field, (51.4 percent), did well at the free throw line (80 percent), didn’t get outrebounded (37-36) and took care of the ball relatively well (15 turns). But still lost. Why? Well, other than the aforementioned run, it was the inability to get stops late and the inability to execute. At least it wasn’t the same old stuff. Tonight, OKC was pegged for eight more fouls than Memphis (29-21). I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both had nice nights. Durant had 28 on 9-18 shooting and pulled down five boards in 41 minutes. Westbrook netted 15 and dished six assists and didn’t have a turnover. But Durant did have six turns. I’ve mentioned it before, but KD just isn’t that strong with the ball. He gets bumped and he loses control pretty easily. He really needs to focus on getting a little stronger in the offseason. And he’s trying this weird little standing jumper lately where he faces up and jab steps a few times and then lifts and chucks a quick shot. And I’m guessing, but I’d say he’s probably about 0-12 on that shot for the season. He’s best off two dribbles and a step back or coming off a screen and popping.
I do want to mention that I was at tonight’s game with my buddy Andy and the in-game production and entertainment was far and away better than it was opening night. This had the feeling of a Hornets game with all the videos, numerous T-shirt tosses and other fun things. I counted 17 plays of some form of Thunderstruck and I loved using the riff as a “Defense!” chant. Nice touch. During the pregame video intro, Andy and I joked that there really couldn’t be much stock footage of Thunder highlights, with the team being, you know, 2-20. And right as he said that, there was a clip of Earl Watson taking a charge. How perfect. We then wondered what else they’d show – maybe an opponent traveling or a good defensive rebound. Or maybe even practice footage. (sigh)
Oklahoma City makes a quick trip down I-35 to play the Mavericks Saturday night. That should be fun.