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Raise your hand if you expected the Thunder to come back and beat the Grizzlies all the way up until the final few minutes tonight.
If you’re not raising your hand right now, you’re either an eternal pessimist, a liar or not a Thunder fan.
This Thunder team has spoiled us.
A four game win streak, a record over .500 and most of all, a trio of jaw dropping, heart pounding, miraculous comeback victories have led OKC fans to believe that their team can overcome any deficit no matter how large or how much time may be left in a game. An endearing ragtag collection of players old and young have captured the hearts of the Thunder fanbase by overachieving and fighting until the final buzzer every game.
Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and the rest of the crew tried to snatch another unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat on the night after Christmas, but the clutch shot making went dry and the swarming clutch defense was overpowered. A hot shooting Memphis team avenged the 24 point comeback the Thunder hit them with just one week and one day ago.
The Grizzlies shot a ridiculous 54.8% from the floor, including 10 of 25 attempts from long distance. Meanwhile, the Thunder shot an anemic 40.8%, including 10 of 35 from beyond the arc. Memphis outrebounded OKC by a whopping total of 50-34. The Grizz had more assists and more blocks. The only categories that the Thunder had an edge in go hand in hand: turnovers and steals.
Though the feeling that a Thunder run always felt inevitable throughout the game, the closest OKC came was in the final few minutes when the good guys got the deficit down to 9, made a stop, picked up an offensive rebound on the other end and set up Schroder with a clean, open look. A made 3 would’ve cut the lead to 6 and ignited Loud City. Unfortunately, Schroder missed and the Grizzlies converted a full court pass into an easy Jonas Valanciunas dagger dunk on the other end. The 5 point swing ended any rational hope that OKC could pull off some more Thunder magic. In the end, this was a dominating effort and well deserved win for the Grizzlies.
Tonight was also a sobering reminder that despite coming in with the second best record in the NBA over the last 10 games and the longest active winning streak, this is still a rebuilding team in transition. The playoffs are a very strong possibility if the Thunder brass so choose to forge that path, but this squad has fought tooth and nail to get to .500 and losses to teams like the Grizzlies or Wizards are still very reasonable outcomes.
Especially when playing without Danilo Gallinari. His shooting, scoring and spacing was sorely missed tonight. And he is going to miss at least the next two games and possibly even more. He may get traded soon thereafter. If that happens, while it will be a big win for the future of the franchise, expectations for this season will need to be adjusted.
That said, raise your hand if you expect the Thunder to bounce back after this loss and beat the Hornets on the road on the second night of a back to back.
Yeah, me too.
- OKC is now 15-15 on the season and remains in the 7 spot in the Western Conference.
- As a matter of fact, the Thunder didn’t even lose any ground at all in the playoff race because the three teams directly behind them in the standings (Portland, San Antonio, Sacramento) all lost tonight as well.
- OKC was 2-0 coming into tonight when Gallo missed a game, but that was bound to catch up to them. He’s far too good and far too important to this team’s offense.
- The Thunder’s three headed point guard attack all scored over 20 points again, with CP3 scoring 23, Shai with 21 and Schroder with 20. Unfortunately, it took SGA and Dennis a combined 40 shots to get their 41.
- Schroder keeps up his NBA-leading streak of 13 straight games of scoring 17+ points from the bench.
- Paul and Steven Adams were the only Thunder players on the positive side of the game’s +/- numbers. Each were a +8.
- OKC native, big Thunder fan and Tony Award winning Kristin Chenoweth made her annual holiday visit home and was in the house tonight.
- The Thunder ran a front court of Nader, Burton and Muscala to close the 1st quarter. OKC was up 18-14 when they checked in. Memphis outscored the Thunder 9-0 to end the period. Kristen Chenoweth didn’t deserve to have to see that lineup.
- Only Abdel Nader is gonna hit a double teamed 3 out of an inbounds with 1 second left and hit nothing but net.
- Schroder later hit a jumper out of an inbounds pass with .8 seconds on the clock.
- The Thunder should just let every offensive possession go down to 1 second, throw a ball off a defender and run an in-bounds play. They were 2 for 2 tonight.
- Up next: The Hornets are 13-20 on the season, have lost 3 in a row… and are currently in the 9th spot in the Eastern Conference, just 1.5 games from being a playoff team.