Grizzlies (26-20, 13-7 road) vs. Thunder (38-11, 20-3 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.0 (4th), Grizzlies – 106.1 (17th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.1 (4th), Grizzlies – 105.4 (12th)
Pace: Thunder – 95.4 (8th), Grizzlies – 89.8 (30th)
On Jan. 14, the Grizzlies beat the Thunder 90-87, and while it was kind of a repeat of last year’s playoff series, it was a turning point. After that game, the Thunder won 10 straight games, and righted themselves and climbed back atop the Western Conference.
But without Russell Westbrook, the Grizzlies have always given OKC trouble. This time around, with the Thunder apparently making so much progress in the last three weeks from the team that has struggled without Westbrook, how do they look against this team? Kind of a fascinating matchup to me.
Granted, Memphis is without Mike Conley, which greatly impacts the game. But they still have an awesome defensive shell, and will still have a good gameplan to slow down the Thunder. It’ll be a tough one.
Three Big Things
1. Marc Gasol. The Thunder haven’t found a good defensive answer to him. Kendrick Perkins can defend some bigs, but Gasol hasn’t seemed to be one. Serge Ibaka might not be big enough. Same for Nick Collison. The Spaniard is an issue for OKC, not just because of his overall ability, but also his knack for making big shots.
2. Shots. The Thunder should get some looks tonight, but against a team like Memphis, you have to take advantage of them when afforded. Something like 5-19 from 3 isn’t going to get it done. The Thunder need to make a healthy number of shots. The game is probably going to be a grind, so you’ve got to knock ‘em down when you get ‘em.
3. Turnovers and rebounding. Always the priorities against Memphis.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Payback.