The Thunder took a sixteen point lead into the fourth quarter tonight, on the road without it’s Superman, and did enough of the little things to hang on for the win. The road victory tonight was only the fourth of the year for the Thunder, but it was the second win in Memphis and third out of four tries against the Grizzlies.
The Thunder shot 11-19 (58%) in the first quarter and opened up a 12 point lead in the first quarter. They used a starting lineup of Westbrook, Weaver, Sefolosha, Green and Krstic instead of the second half starters from last night that featured Nick Collison. The starters tonight were very effective on both ends of the court in the first, dominating in nearly every way except for the five turns. Thabo was especially exceptional, playing great defense, hitting a few shots and grabbing five rebounds.
In the second quarter our shooting cooled way off, but we were able to maintain most of the first quarter lead by hammering the boards and forcing 6 Grizzly turnovers (for 11 points). Westbrook had three steals in the quarter. Big Rob Swift made an appearance tonight as the last rotation big and hit a shot and grabbed a board and had two nasty blocks. He did a good job of protecting the rim for the most part, except once when he looked so gassed he couldn’t get over to help under the basket on a drive.
After going up fifteen in the third, the Grizz went on a little 8-0 run to make the game interesting. Brooks called a timeout and the Thunder regrouped. Then Green hit a little mid range, followed by big time back to back threes. After a Swift jumper the score was back up to a sixteen point advantage for the boys in blue. The Thunder were still a bit shaky on it’s shooting (36% in the second and third quarters) but they were doing enough of the little things to keep it rolling. Meanwhile the Grizz were missing half it’s free throws and getting beat to the rebounds.
In the fourth it was all about hanging on for the wild ride. The Grizz scored 31 points in the fourth period, and cut the lead down to three with just a few seconds left, but our boys hit their free throws down the stretch, and it seemed like the Grizz lost their cool and let us put one on them in their house.
- It was very nice to put an end to the losing streak. We dedicated Thunder fans were kind of getting used to something close to .500 ball there for awhile.
- I am firmly in the Thabo Sefolosha fan club. His long jumpers didn’t drop tonight, but he did so many other things. Grant Long said tonight that it seemed like there were two of him on the court at the same time tonight. I can think of about a half a dozen big time defensive plays that really made a statement by him.
- In fact, Sefolosha played so well that he basically took Earl’s minutes away. Earl only got 10 minutes of run tonight. As near as I can tell, Earl was only in the game when Westbrook was on the bench, which wasn’t much. He didn’t get any of the run alongside RW that he has been getting the last month and a half because Weaver is a capable second ball handler, and Sefolosha is too valuable on defense. I think Earl better get used to it.
- The number of empty seats in Memphis, on a Saturday night was stunning. Just a complete wild guess I would say 9000 fans.
- Dean Oliver, basketball guru extraordinaire says that the four factors tell the tale of a game, and shooting is the most important by far. If you don’t shoot the ball well, you better do the other three (getting to the line, maintaining possessions with offensive boards, and preventing turnovers) better than the other team. Tonight, when I say we “did all the little things to win”, this is what I’m referring to. We were out shot, but we were able to get to the line more often and make more free throws, we snagged five extra offensive rebounds and had three extra steals, two less turns and two more blocks than the Grizz. Those added up to 14 more scoring opportunities ( FGA’s + FTA’s), and were the reason we won while the other team shot better than we did.
- Robert Swift has a pretty good sized tattoo of the Supersonics team logo in the crook of his right arm just below the bicep.
- Thabo doesn’t bite on the up fakes that everybody in the NBA does. He might be about the only one on our team who stays down like he should. I noticed that most of the night, but it was especially helpful when Conley jacked up that three with 4 seconds left and jumped into Thabo trying to get the three free throws. Thabo was down, but his arms were straight up–the refs weren’t having any of it.
- Westbrook was again a little out of control at times, and definitely forces shots, but he got to the line all night and made almost as many steals as he did turns. He finished with 7 assists.
- The Thunder did a great job playing the passing lanes tonight.
- Jeff Green now has 60 rebounds in his last five games. He had double digit boards again tonight. If he keeps this up, I will begin to really think of him as a bonafide power forward. Most improved player anyone?
- Thabo had a double double with 15 points and 11 rebounds and only one foul playing his lock down defense. Presti is a shrewd judge of talent.
- I’d have to mention just about everybody tonight if I wanted to mention all of the nice statistics our guys accumulated. Green, Thabo and Westbrook were all double digit positive guys on +/-; Collison, Krstic and Weaver were all positive as well. Only Earl and Swifty were in the hole.
- As you can see, our offensive efficiency was 105.3. Not great, but not all that bad considering all of the change and missing superstar.
- Our defensive efficiency was a very nice 97.9. Woohoo. That’s cause for a party with this team. It’s the best defense we’ve played in the last 14 games; going all the way back to the last New Jersey Nets game.
- I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but it’s not a coincidence our defense is much improved with Durant out of the lineup.
- Our pace was about average for us at 94 possessions.
Any win is a good win; especially on the road. Next up: Dallas at home on Monday.