Oklahoma City Thunder (11-9, 5-4 road) at Memphis Grizzlies (9-12, 6-3 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.4 (22nd), Grizzlies – 107.1 (16th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.6 (4th), Grizzlies – 111.5 (28th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.2 (19th), Grizzlies – 93.4 (11th)
View from the enemy: 3 Shades of Blue
Two weeks ago, you ask me about this game and I’m confident. I’m thinking this is one of those “should win” ballgames. I’m thinking the only reason Oklahoma City loses is because it was flat or uninspired.
But things changed. Memphis started playing good. So good in fact the Grizz just took down the Brons in overtime this week and now have won three straight. But that’s the thing with mediocre-to-good teams – you can win any game, but you can also lose any game. And it’s not like the Thunder are some pushover squad. Heck, as of today they’re a playoff group. So how does that do you?
Regardless, this game is kind of important because it’s the most winnable on the schedule for the next week. After this OKC gets Cleveland, Denver and Dallas. Then a home break against the Pistons (who are playing well) and then off to the Lakers, Houston and Phoenix. So lose tonight and you potentially could stare down a four-game losing streak and a 11-13 record with your toughest three games still coming. But win and you’ve got momentum and another game up on .500 heading into this murderer’s row of games. So I’d say this is not a game to be taken lightly.
Two places Memphis has a decided edge in my view: center and power forward. Zach Randolph is a stat-stuffing machine. He can murder a team whether it be his own or another any given night, but he’s a load to handle inside and out and I’d bet Jeff Green has some issues there. Nick Collison will likely see a LOT of time on Randolph. Marc Gasol has been playing fantastic lately and while Nenad Krstic is a quality player, he doesn’t typically fare well against block players like Gasol.
Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay are friends from D.C. and kind of built in similar ways. While Gay is a very nice player, he can disappear for long stretches and end up with a 4-9, 11 points, six rebounds type of game. And there aren’t too many small forwards I wouldn’t take KD over. Really, just one and his name rhymes with Schmabron Lames. O.J. Mayo has hit 10 of his last 16 3-pointers, but of course I like Thabo matching up there. Mayo is a good scorer, but these are the type of guys Thabo handles well.
I think this game hinges on who plays better between Mike Conley and Russell Westbrook. Memphis has the upper hand in some places, OKC in others. But both these guys can be a little inconsistent and depending on who plays better, I’ve got to think his team will do the same.
Now don’t get me wrong, if OKC loses tonight I’m not going to throw things and then sleep outside out of anger. We all should know by now the NBA season is not a one game affair. There really aren’t any must-win tilts in December. But that’s not to say these games won’t haunt you in April. These next two weeks are the most important to date for this young team and I think it would be best to get it started off on the right foot.
Tip at 7:00 CST. Go Please Win.