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Thunder Snap Skid, Westbrook Erupts Late

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder snapped their three-game losing streak against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night in Oklahoma City with a 114-102 win.

The Grizzlies came into the contest hunting hopeful home-court advantage for the upcoming Western Conference Playoffs. The Thunder, and Russell Westbrook, had other ideas.

OKC opened the first quarter shooting efficiently from the field. OKC shot 53 percent from the floor, but offset its hot-shooting with eight turnovers in the quarter. Memphis was able to use those turnovers to gather a 23-21 lead going into the second.

In that second quarter, the Thunder slowed down the turnovers while turning up the pace of the game. The Thunder took a 10-point lead into halftime after back-to-back three-pointers. Westbrook was able to nail a deep, 2-for-1 three-point attempt, and then assist a half-ending three-point make from Anthony Morrow. The barrage of threes enabled OKC to score 58 first-half points against the defensively minded Memphis Grizzlies.

The Thunder didn’t capitalize on their first-half momentum in the third quarter. Starting the frame off with a double-digit lead, OKC played poorly by letting the Grizzlies outscore it by 12 points in the third. The Thunder hit multiple three-point attempts, but the Grizzlies grinded down OKC’s lead with help from Marc Gasol’s 10 points in the quarter. The Thunder also had eight turnovers in the third, which did little to stop the bleeding.

But, Westbrook had an MVP-like performance in the fourth.

Struggling to climb ahead of the Grizzlies, Westbrook put the Thunder on his back and carried them to the win, scoring 15-unanswered points. Six of those 15 points were back-to-back three-pointers that seemingly broke the Grizzlies will to try and contest for the win. The Thunder would end the game with a 114-102 advantage.

While Westbrook had both an electric fourth quarter and his 25th triple-double, he didn’t win solely on his own. The Thunder bench had their best showing since Enes Kanter’s injury, scoring 45 points and shooting 16-of-24 (66 percent.) Joffrey Lauvergne had 16 points on seven shots, Anthony Morrow had 15 points while hitting three of his four 3-pointers, and Cameron Payne had nine points in 18 minutes.

The Thunder also shot above-average from three. OKC had been one of the most consistently bad three-point teams in the league, but they made 13 of their 26 attempted three-pointers on Friday. Shooting 50 percent from deep forced the Grizzlies to come out of the paint and guard, opening up Westbrook’s prime real-estate late in the game.

OKC will look to continue its efficient scoring Sunday afternoon against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. CST.

KEYS TO THE GAME:

Defend the Rim: B-

Despite OKC notching a victory, it still struggled a bit defensively, especially in third quarter. Most of the damage was done by Marc Gasol (31 points, 58 percent) and his mid-range jumper, but there were times where it felt like Memphis was scoring a tad-bit too easily.

Go FastA+

The Thunder knew Memphis wanted to play slow, but they didn’t let it happen. OKC ran often, putting up 114 points on a defensive-minded Grizzlies team that holds opponents to an average of 99 points a game.

Bench ScoringA+

OKC’s bench had its best performance since Enes Kanter injured himself on January 26. The bench scored 45 points while shooting 66 percent on Friday with Morrow and Lauvergne netting 15 and 16 points, respectively. Every Thunder player who played Friday scored.

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