Okla. City Thunder (24-18, 12-9 road) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (22-19, 15-5 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27, DirectTV 679, UVerse 753)
Stream: Click Here (Also, NBA League Pass is free right now!)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 97.1 FM Tulsa)
Time: 7:00 CST
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.1 (20th), Grizzlies – 110.4 (6th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.2 (4th), Grizzlies – 110.3 (25th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.2 (18th), Grizzlies – 93.9 (8th)
View from the enemy: 3 Shades of Blue
It’s simple: Any games remaining against the Hornets, Jazz and Grizzlies are big. Very big. Not to say other remaining games aren’t large in size, but these are potentially the teams you’re going to be battling down the stretch for the final spot in the p-word. Already, the Thunder has two games up on Utah. They’re one down to NOLA. But here’s a chance to go two up on Memphis.
Last time these two teams met, OKC was abused on the glass but made enough plays to come out on top. Right around when that first game was when Memphis started moving from decent team into pretty good team. They’re figuring out roles and they’re figuring out how to win, especially at home.
But for some reason in my head, it seems like OKC does well against poor defensive groups. Maybe that’s wrong, but typically when the Thunder can focus on winning a game on the defensive end, they fare alright. And with Memphis being 25th in defensive efficiency and relying mostly on scoring the ball, that matchup seems to lie in OKC’s favor.
Memphis coming in: The Grizzlies come in off a tough loss Wednesday to the Hornets. After starting the season 1-7 and then 6-12, Memphis has gone 16-7 since Dec. 1. They’ve won four of five and seven of 10. Oh, and they’re 15-5 at home.
Zach Randolph terrifies me, especially if Nick Collison is still out (still waiting on word). Randolph absolutely ate OKC alive on the glass in the first meeting. I think he had some 73 offensive rebounds in the third quarter alone. Jeff Green is going to struggle with him, Nenad Krstic will have equal difficulty and if there is no Collison, it will really be on Serge Ibaka to keep Randolph off the glass at least some. A good strategy would be for Uncle Jeff to attack Randolph early and try and get him in foul trouble. That was the plan in the first meeting and it limited Randolph’s first half minutes.
Russell Westbrook had trouble keeping Mike Conley in front of him in the last meeting and as much high-screen-and-roll as the Grizz do, I imagine Westbrook might have some issues again. But he’s due for a breakout game offensively and Conley isn’t an especially strong defender so it could be tonight. Rudy Gay doesn’t defend Kevin Durant that well, despite Gay’s ideal height and length. And KD did a nice job containing Gay in the last meeting.
O.J. Mayo has become a really deadly shooter from outside, so Thabo can’t slack at all. Mayo is a big part of spreading the floor for Memphis to get the ball into Randolph and Marc Gasol, so limiting Mayo from there will be important. And obviously the Thunder bench will play a large role in this one. Eric Maynor and James Harden could honestly be what make the difference.
The truly may be the biggest game to date for Oklahoma City. Like I said, here is a chance to go two up on Memphis, a team you’re currently battling in the West. And both of those wins would have come on the road. It’s a big time game for the Thunder and I expect a big time effort. The matchups should favor the Thunder, it’s just aout late game execution and keeping Z-Bo off the glass. The Thunder have won three straight and are 2-0 on this road trip so far. A split was ideal when it started and three wins would have been gravy. And here’s a chance to lock up No. 3 early.
Tip at 7:00. Go Fight Win.