Memphis Grizzlies (12-10, 5-7 road) at Oklahoma City Thunder (17-4, 8-1 home)
Tonight will be Thunder-Grizzlies Part III. The Thunder have already defeated the Grizzlies twice this season – both times on the road. This is a game the Thunder should win. Everything sets up nicely for them. The Thunder have had a day of rest and the Grizzlies are coming off a game last night against the Hawks. The Grizzlies are still without Zach Randolph, which reports have begun to circulate that he may be done for the season. That would be good news for the Thunder as Randolph is a bonafide Thunder killer.
Regardless of the injuries the Griz have suffered this year, they still have a talented roster. Rudy Gay is an athletic scorer who has been pretty good at creating for teammates this year. Mike Conley is a fantastic young guard who has made an impact for the Grizzlies so far this season. Marc Gasol always seems to play well against the Thunder. I am excited to see how Perkins guards Gasol tonight.
We cannot forget about Tony Allen, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy. He always seems to play like a maniac against the Thunder. He will likely be matched up against Durant. Allen gives Durant fits on defense because Allen crowds Durant’s space the entire game. If Durant get uncomfortable, he sometimes fails to get in a rhythm offensively. It will be important for Durant to get going early.
Keys to the game
#1 Points in the Paint
Russell Westbrook will be key tonight because of his ability to get to the rim. The first time the Thunder played the Grizzlies, Russell had the worst game of his career. Most of the poor performance was because he couldn’t get clear paths to the hoop. The second time these two teams met, Russell got to the rim anytime he wanted. That put a lot of pressure on the Grizzlies’ defense, which opened up opportunities for teammates.
#2 Second Chance Points
This key goes both for the Thunder and the Grizzlies. Memphis has a lot of athletic players, so they will be hitting the offensive glass hard tonight. The Thunder must do a good job at getting bodies on defenders and limiting second chances. Serge Ibaka wasn’t great offensively against Dallas, so I look for him to put out maximum effort on the offensive glass tonight.
#3 Ball Movement
If the Thunder get bogged down on offense and start running a bunch of isolation plays, this will play into the hand of Memphis. The Grizzlies have great defenders, so Westbrook, Durant and Harden need to put out extra effort to make the extra pass to force the defenders shift. The more the defense has to work, the better chance of defensive breakdowns. It would be nice to see a 25 assist game for the Thunder tonight, but I would be satisfied with 20.
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