It’s always good to see a young team learn from mistakes and get a better result. It helps too when you play a team again after just five days too so all of that is fresh on you mind.
After grabbing just three offensive rebounds in the last meeting, Oklahoma City worked a lot better on the glass, pulling in 17 offensive boards and holding a 47-40 overall rebounding edge en route to a very nice 109-100 win over the Grizzlies.
Just like the last meeting, OKC went big down the stretch. Except this time, it actually worked. Zach Randolph puled in 16 rebounds again, but this time they weren’t nearly as devastating. Nick Collison had the assignment on Randolph for most of the fourth, but really it was the entire Thunder defense that did a great job. Russell Westbrook was great at limited Mike Conley’s dribble penetration. Collison and Ibaka did a nice job protecting the paint and making Memphis take fadeaway post jumpers instead of easy point blank looks. And you know who did a pretty excellent job on Memphis’s top option? Jeff Green.
Green slid into his more natural small forward position for the fourth, getting him away from the terror of Randolph. Green and Kevin Durant kind of traded possessions on Gay, but between the two of them, Gay only had two field goals and four points in the last 12 minutes. With the Thunder bottling the lane, Memphis had to look to Gay to create off the dribble for his own shot or for O.J. Mayo to get some looks. But Durant and Green locked down both.
Oh, and KD scored 40, which is cool. He did in on 13-24 shooting and 13-14 from the line. He pulled in eight rebounds and took over late. He scored 10 of OKC’s 26 fourth quarter points and 28 of his 40 came in the second half. In other words, KD was large in this game.
- Despite all the offensive rebounds, Memphis still took 19 more shots than OKC. That was due to OKC turning it over 18 times as well as the Thunder taking 42 free throws. (And they made 35.)
- Jeff Green guarded Randolph mainly in the first and third quarters. And honestly, I thought other than the beginning of the third, Green did a pretty good job. It was obvious how hard Uncle Jeff was working on Randolph. Green was pushing, fighting and grabbing for position constantly. While the effort was terrific, it kind of illustrated how Green is just totally overmatched against true power men. As he fought like mad for position on Randolph I almost felt like saying, “Bless his heart, he’s trying.” Which is a good thing! Still, Green deserves credit for obviously trying to put in a better effort. He attacked the glass with a bit of fervor (six rebounds) and played a smart offensive game (15 points on 6-11 shooting).
- Westbrook was absolutely fantastic. He was just 6-16 from the field, but had 22 points and 11 assists against just three turnovers. He controlled the game entirely (he had five assists in the first five minutes) and really had OKC in quality offensive sets throughout the night. Plus his defense was pretty excellent throughout.
- The Grizzlies were 0-14 from 3 until they hit one with about 15 seconds left. That’s impressive mainly because of the inside presence Memphis has. You’d think an open kickout would’ve been available a lot because of the way OKC packed things inside. But the perimeter defenders (Green, Durant, Westbrook) really did great work closing on shooters.
- Memphis had 50 points in the paint heading into the fourth. The last 12 minutes, they had just eight.
- Serge Ibaka finished with just one block, but he probably had at least five altered shots. Every time Mike Conley went into the lane, he was looking for Ibaka and floating everything way high.
- The biggest stretch in the game came late third quarter. The Thunder scored on 11 straight possessions and 12 of 13 to push out to a 10-point cushion. The Grizzlies cut it to six heading into the fourth, but the execution in the third gave the Thunder something to work with.
- That’s 17 home sellouts for OKC. I find that impressive.
- The Thunder started the game with three straight dunks. And all five starters scored in the first nine minutes of the game. A nice tone to set.
- James Harden was quiet because of the matchups mainly, but he’s hit a 3 in eight straight games. Still scored nine off the bench which is good.
- There were some pretty terrible calls in this game. It’s one of those that depending on the loser, one side is going to be complaining about it. If the Thunder had lost we’d all be griping about the phantom foul on Harden late in the third. But since OKC won, it’s about how many times Gay got fouled but only got four free throw attempts.
- Brian Davis starts a lot of sentences with no idea of how it’s going to finish. Tonight he made a point like, “Rudy Gay gets in close for the floater where he’s very good at that range… and right at the free throw line too.” I have no idea what he was talking about. At least he didn’t say Gay was at the “nail” though.
- Durant travels probably like 75 percent of the time when he catches a pass. Here’s an example from tonight’s game that was fairly egregious.
The Grizzlies have been playing good basketball over the past week with three straight wins over the Lakers, Thunder and Jazz. So beating them at home here isn’t necessarily just a ho-hum victory. It’s a good one and especially good because of the obvious adjustments and improvements OKC made on defense and on the glass. I don’t know if this is something we can necessarily put in our back pockets and expect to take with us for the rest of the season, but the since halftime of the Mavs game the Thunder’s played six quarters of pretty good defense and has rebounding relatively well too. Plus, two straight wins. Which is nice.
Next up: A good break for OKC with a road game against the Rockets Wednesday.