Memphis Grizzlies (5-1, 2-1 road) vs. OKC Thunder (6-2, 4-1 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.4 (7th), Grizzlies– 107.3 (5th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 97.9 (3rd), Grizzlies – 97.7 (2nd)
Pace: Thunder – 94.0 (6th), Grizzlies – 93.8 (8th)
View from the enemy: 3 Shades of Blue
The Thunder’s 6-2 start has been pretty good, but let’s face it: They haven’t really beaten anyone of note. The win in Chicago is OKC’s best of the season but other than that, it’s been wins over Detroit (twice), Toronto, Portland and Cleveland.
Add up the records of those five opponents and you get 11-28. So against a good Memphis team (only the second Western Conference opponent OKC’s played yet), the Thunder have themselves a bit of a measuring bar type of game.
Because the Grizzlies are good. Real good. They’ve won five straight themselves, with some impressive wins in there too, especially an 18-point whipping of Miami. The Thunder are obviously playing solid basketball and winning games, but sometimes, wins hide issues. Losing exposes them. The Grizzlies defend, they rebound and they’re scoring better than they ever have.
With a win tonight over Memphis, it’s more reassurance about where the Thunder stand. It validates their record a bit. But a loss, it puts a spotlight on OKC and forces everyone to acknowledge that the Thunder have three losses against the Spurs, Hawks and Grizzlies — good teams. Other than a win against a likely average Bulls team, the Thunder won’t have beat anyone.
It’s about as big an early November game as you’re going to get.
Memphis coming in: The Grizzlies last played Sunday, smoking the Heat.
Three Big Things
1. Inside men. The Grizzlies have their bread and butter working against with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol playing on concert together. They’re scoring (combining for 28.4 a game) and rebounding (combining for 21.8 a game). After an injury slowed him last season, Randolph appears to be back in form, averaging easy double-doubles. Big assignment for the Thunder bigs tonight and one of those games where Kendrick Perkins has a chance to earn a little bit of his money.
2. Turnovers. The Grizzlies feast on them. They force 16.7 a game which is in the top 10 of the league, but against the Thunder, a turnover prone group, Memphis knows how to speed them up and get them playing out of control. Specifically, Westbrook and Durant. It’s about valuing possessions, taking what’s there and not forcing anything. The thing Westbrook and Durant sometimes need to remind themselves of is that while the “right” pass might be correct, it doesn’t matter if a shot doesn’t go at the basket. Because even if it’s a terrible look, it has a percentage chance of going in. A turnover has zero chance.
3. Atmospheric pressure. Thus far, home crowds at The Peake have been a little soft, in my opinion. Nothing all that boisterous, nothing all that intimidating. But there’s been the excuse of uninteresting opponents coming in. Hard to get amped for the Raptors and Pistons. But this is a playoff team and one the Thunder have some history with. If the place isn’t rocking tonight, then there really is a problem.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Peake.