Grizzlies (12-10) at Thunder (17-4), 8:00 p.m. EST tip

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Thunder (1-game winning streak)
105.0 Offensive Efficiency (3rd)
98.8 Defensive Efficiency (12th)
+6.2 Differential (7th)
95.3 Pace (9th)

Grizzlies (2-game winning streak)
97.9 Offensive Efficiency (22nd)
96.9 Defensive Efficiency (8th)
+1.0 Differential (17th)
95.1 Pace (11th)

The Thunder are coming off a nice win over the Dallas Mavericks. Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka had big games with Ibaka getting a career-high 10 blocks. The Thunder have beaten the Grizzlies twice already this season and both times have come on the road in close games. These two teams are forming a nice rivalry after a hard-fought playoff series last year. The Thunder are the best isolation offense in the NBA while the Grizzlies are first in defending isolation so that will make for an interesting matchup in the game. Rudy Gay has had particularly poor shooting nights so far against the Thunder this season going 9-for-24 in the first meeting and then 7-for-21 in the second.

Thunder keys to the game

1. Which Westbrook will we see?

Westbrook had his worst game of the season the first time these teams played going 0-for-13 from the field and scoring just four points. In the second meeting Westbrook scored 30 points and was huge down the stretch for the Thunder. Oklahoma City obviously can’t afford to have Westbrook go 0-for-13 again and don’t expect him to do so as Westbrook has been playing at a very high level lately. It all depends though. We know Westbrook is going to be aggressive and look to score a lot and probably take some bad shots. It’s whether or not they go in that will determine the kind of night he’s going to have.

2. Keep them off the offensive glass

The Grizzlies are one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the league led by Marc Gasol. Gasol is averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds against the Thunder this season and it will be a challenge for Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka to slow him down. The Grizzlies also get a lot of offensive rebounds from wings like Tony Allen and Rudy Gay crashing the glass. In the teams’ first meeting, Memphis had 19 offensive rebounds but was with Zach Randolph in the game. Randolph wasn’t playing in the second meeting and Memphis only had 10 offensive rebounds in that game. The Thunder will need a total team effort to slow Memphis down in this department. Look for Oklahoma City to be most vulnerable when they go small and they probably will.

3. The transition game

Since Memphis likes to crash the offensive glass they become vulnerable to transition baskets and the Thunder are one of the best teams in the NBA in the open floor. If Westbrook and Durant can have big rebounding nights on the defensive side they will be able to ignite the break and get some easy buckets. On the other end Memphis is fifth in the NBA in efficiency in transition offense with a 1.18 PPP while Oklahoma City is 26th in the league defending the fast break. If the Thunder aren’t shooting a high percentage tonight the Grizzlies will be able to make them pay out on the break.

Prediction: Oklahoma City wins 109-102.

Topics: James Harden, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha

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