Current Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (43-15), Memphis Grizzlies (32-24)
Last time they met: Oklahoma City Thunder (86) defeated Memphis Grizzlies (77).
It hasn’t been a pretty post All Star period for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not only have they dropped their past three games (all at home) they have also lost Kendrick Perkins for an extended period of time and are trying to fight through this adjustment period. The task is not going to get any easier against the Grizzlies who are looking dangerous. They have won 6 out of their last 10 since they faced the Thunder in early February and the big front court is going to cause OKC some headaches.
For the Thunder, they are going to want to rectify a couple of glaring issues in the past three losses. They will want to maintain possession of the ball and not allow easy buckets from turnovers. They will also want to devote some focus and energy on boxing out and grabbing rebounds. Finally, they are going to want to play with far more poise and energy than they showed in a very lackluster loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
These matchups are always tough but entertaining. It will be another chance to see Russell Westbrook in action and he has performed better each time he has taken the hardwood this week. We will likely see Steve Adams starting again and he will have to really focus on keeping Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph out of the painted area.
Kevin Durant vs Tayshaun Prince
Unlike the playoff series last year, Kevin Durant has his sidekick back. This will allow him to not bear the brunt of the offensive load on every possession and might free him up to have a pretty big game. Coming off a near triple double against the Cavs, Durant is in career form and he will need one of his best for the Thunder to get the win over the Grizzlies. As has happened throughout the season between these teams so far, Durant will be faced with a myriad of opponents throughout the course of the night – but I don’t think any of them will be able to stop him.
Russell Westbrook vs Mike Conley
Westbrook was missing during the last few games between these two and will want to make up for lost time. His battle against Conley is going to be fun to watch. While Russ will still be on restricted minutes, he did play 30 against the Cavs so we can expect something around the same mark again. He has improved with each game and this is another step in the return. He found his range from deep and also connected on some mid-range jumpers which will have given him some confidence. This might be one out of the box for Westbrook as he shows everyone he is back.
Steven Adams vs Marc Gasol
Huge ask for Adams in this one. Between Gasol and Randolph, the Grizzlies have one of the most talented, biggest and toughest front courts in the league. Adams is a physical monster himself but he is young, inexperience and prone to foul trouble. He can’t afford to not play these guys hard but he has to do his work early, get in and under them to avoid fouling. If he can play these guys to a draw, the rest of the Thunder can pick up the slack.
You better believe the Thunder are going to ensure they don’t lose four in a row. It would be their longest losing streak in five years and would start to cause some angst amongst the franchise and its fans. We can expect some terrific positional battles as mentioned above but whatever it takes, the Thunder have to get the win in this one. I think between KD and Russ they will score 60 or more and that should be enough to get the win over the grind-it-out Grizzlies. Thunder 92, Memphis 86.