Tag - memphis

For once, the comeback was on Oklahoma City’s side

There have been many meltdowns in Thunder history and some of the biggest ones were by the Thunder.

We all know of the Warriors meltdown in 2016. Oklahoma City led by as many as 13, but felt like 23. Klay Thompson went bananas and the Thunder were forced into a Game 6.

In many ways, last night was the opposite of that. Oklahoma City made the comeback and all seemed right. It was almost the monkey off the Thunder’s back.

Here are all of the greatest comebacks and collapses in the playoffs by 15 or more with the Thunder (because of the 15-point mark, the Warriors loss was not added).

Collapses

2017 first round, Game 2: Houston (15)

OKC 109
HOU 113
April 19, 2017

This collapse is one of those that’s not really a collapse but fits within the arbitrary parameters we’ve chosen. Oklahoma City went up 28-13 on the Rockets with 3:23 left in the first quarter. The Thunder held their own in double digits for a good portion of the game. The Thunder held a 12-point lead late into the third but the bench fell through and Houston had the lead less than four minutes into the fourth and the rest is history.

2012 NBA Finals, Game 4 – Miami (17)

OKC 99
MIA 104
June 19, 2012

This, like the previous meltdown, happened in the first quarter. This is the second real playoff meltdown. This one unfortunately came in the NBA Finals. Oklahoma City jumped up 27-12 with 2:28 on a Nick Collison bucket. Oklahoma City led 33-16 with about 20 seconds to go in the first but Miami went on a 15-0 run to pull within 33-32 with 8:30 left in the second. Oklahoma City was able to hold off the Heat until middle of the third. However, Miami took the lead and would never trail again.

2013 second round, Game 4 – Grizzlies (17)

OKC   97
MEM 103
OT – May 13, 2013

A Russell Westbrook-less Thunder team, trailed 2-1 in a Memphis showdown. They took a 43-26 lead mid-second quarter and it appeared the Thunder were on their way. However, the Grizzlies’ comeback was on the back on a 23-9 run. It wasn’t until the end of the third quarter that we saw Memphis come back and finally take the lead. No one led by more than three in the final 10 minutes of regulation, with the leads going back and forth. Oklahoma City never led in overtime.

2014 second round, Game 4 – Clippers (22)

OKC 99
LAC 101
May 11, 2014

This is the largest blown playoff lead in Thunder history. A 22-point loss to the Chris Paul and the LA Clippers. This was the first in three straight games with double-digit blown leads. Luckily, Oklahoma City was on the winning side on the other two. If you told me though, Oklahoma City was going to take a 29-7 lead in the playoffs, I would’ve guaranteed a Thunder victory. That wasn’t the case this night. Oklahoma City’s 16-point lead in the fourth quarter was evaporated

2011 Western Conference Finals, Game 4 – Dallas (15)

DAL  112
OKC 105
OT – May 23, 2011

This one… this one is one of the more painful. Kevin Durant hit a jumper and Oklahoma City went up by 15 with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter. It seemed Oklahoma City was going to equalize the series. Oklahoma City went 1-of-9 down the stretch, letting Dallas outscore the Thunder 17-2 to force overtime. Durant missed a 30-footer to force overtime. I still have nightmares of this game.

Comebacks

2014 second round, Game 5 – Clippers (15)

LAC 104
OKC 105

May 13, 2014

Remember this photo? Yeah, from that game. Westbrook draining three free throws with 6.4 seconds left while Durant cannot stomach to watch them go through the net. Oklahoma City overcame a 15-point deficit, which was the patented first quarter deficit. What made this game so special was the Thunder’s ability to overcome a 101-94 deficit with 49 seconds remaining. Durant hit a three. Clippers missed a jumper. Westbrook stole a pass from Chris Paul. Then, Paul fouled Westbrook from three, hit hit all three with 6.4 seconds left to win the game. LA never got a shot off due to fantastic Thunder defense.

2014 second round, Game 6 – Clippers (16)

OKC 104
LAC   98
May 15, 2014

Durant was once a vital member of this team and showed out, scoring 39 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. LA grabbed a 16-point lead a couple of times in the first half with 7:28 left in the first half. The Thunder came back with a 13-2 run, pulling within five. Though, LA held a 7-point lead with 2:53 left in the third. Oklahoma City with the combination of Durant and Westbrook, fueled Oklahoma City’s comeback. A 13-4 that bled into the fourth quarter gave Oklahoma City lead for good. Oklahoma City pushed their lead to as many as 11 in the final minutes of the fourth.

2012 Western Conference Finals, Game 6 – Spurs (18)

SA     99
OKC 107
June 6, 2012

Westbrook and Durant combined for 33 second half points as Oklahoma City overcame an 18-point deficit. San Antonio led throughout the first half by double digits. San Antonio led by double digits for half of the game. Oklahoma City, powered by their two all-stars fueled a comeback and a march onto their first ever NBA Finals. San Antonio had no answer for either players shots. It was a nice change of pace with how the series started, the Thunder falling back 2-0.

2011 second round, Game 4 – Memphis (18)

OKC 133
MEM 123
3OT – May 9, 2011

One of the greatest games in Thunder history. Oklahoma City overcame an 18-point deficit and avoided a 3-1 series hole. Memphis took an 18-point lead in the second quarter, OJ Mayo (!!) put them up by 18. The thunder had pulled with four by halftime. Oklahoma City took their first lead in the second half but Mike Conley hit a big three, sending the game into the first overtime. Oklahoma City blew multiple seven-point leads. In the first overtime, it was Greivis Vasquez who naield a three to tie it up. Durant bricked a chance on a game winner, sending it to a second overtime. Westbrook tied the game up with 30 seconds to go but both teams combined for four misses, sending it to a third overtime. That’s where Oklahoma City took over. Durant hit a jumper with 30 seconds left to put Oklahoma City up by eight. Dequan Cook sank free throws to give OKC a 10-point victory.

2018 first round, Game 5 – Utah (25)

Utah 99
OKC 107
April 25, 2018

You saw it. It was tied for the largest second half comeback in NBA playoff history. It was the fourth largest comeback in NBA playoff history. Oklahoma City only had one turnover once they started their comeback, having to be nearly perfect to get the victory and live to fight another day.

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Five Thoughts 4-9-18 (Thunder 115, Heat 93)

Five Thoughts 4-9-18 (Thunder 115, Heat 93)

1. At the end of the game tonight as the starters exited for the last minute or so, I am pretty sure I FELT the same way the team LOOKED. That was the happiest/most relaxed looking Thunder team I’ve seen all season. There was relief (I was definitely feeling that), but I think there was a bit more than that. It wasn’t just relief that “oh we clinched a playoff spot finally.” It was more along of the lines of “oh, we can be pretty good after all.” These last two games have been essential for obvious reasons, but not only did they GET the Thunder into the playoffs, it feels like they also have some real momentum now. They’ve won three of four. The three wins were all on the road against playoff teams (Pelicans, Rockets, Heat). The middle team there just so happened to be riding a 20 game win streak in their arena. All three games required fourth quarter comebacks. The Thunder delivered all three times. Quite frankly, in those three fourth quarters the Thunder have looked awesome. Dominant even. Tonight was off the charts. 39-12? Goodness. So while I am of course happy to finally shake free of the potential deflation of missing the playoffs entirely, I am genuinely excited to see what this can do now that they are there. There could be a silver lining to our struggles throughout the year. Thunder were forced to focus and gel at the end. They now enter the playoffs as underdogs of sorts. And as long as they win Wednesday, they will avoid Houston and GS in round one. It’s not a terrible spot to be in.

2. I was not feeling relief or happiness early on. As a matter of fact, that brutal start had me feeling about as frustrated and tense as I’ve felt all year (and that’s saying something). They started the game 0-10 and were down 23-5 for crying out loud. Even early, that’s a tall mountain to climb. The fact that they somehow managed to get it down to 6 by the end of the quarter was huge. Abrines may have hit one of the bigger shots of the year. He made their first shot from the field; after that things started to flow. The starters literally didn’t make a shot before that sub was made. Miami helped by missing a boatload of three’s (although they were killing us in the paint). I also thought Melo was key to the game not getting away early. Good energy and one huge block on the defensive end to stop a momentum turning play. The bench overall was massive tonight. I didn’t like the way we played the third quarter—especially Russ. Rushed, sloppy, quick shots. The game was starting to slowly slip away. Bench saved the day. Just huge to start the fourth with a big run like that. Patterson hasn’t been putting up big numbers, but he has been far more effective lately. And what can you say about Grant? He’s a beast. Glad to see Donovan extending him deeper into the rotation in the fourth quarter. He’s earned it. Starters did a great job of closing the game out, but the bench teed it up for them.

3. Been saying it for over a week now— I’m concerned about Adams. Everyone else is sort of rounding into shape and he is regressing. He’s struggling a bit to score inside, he’s missing more free throws, and he isn’t making as many impactful plays on either end. I wouldn’t say he’s been bad by any means, but he just sort of been so-so out there. I really wonder about him physically. He takes such a beating. He’s also had some tough match ups lately with Jokic, Anthony Davis, Capela, and Whiteside. Kind of looks to me like he is on fumes. I guess they really can’t with seeding on the line, but I’d love to see him sit against Memphis. They should be able to beat them regardless. It would be nice for Adams to get a legit 5-6 days off before the playoffs begin. Of everyone on the team, it seems he needs it the most.

4. Gotta give PG credit where it is due. He cost us the GS game (he admitted as much himself), but with our backs against the wall these past two games he has gotten the job done. Not a huge fan of seeing him hoist 13 three’s in a game, but the ones he made were pretty timely. Even with that volume of outside shots, he still drove the ball fairly frequently as well. Early in the game he helped keep us from drowning by getting to the free throw line— and he’s the one guy this year that has been reliable once he gets there.

5. Thunder answered the call over the past week or so; certainly over the past two games. Now the Thunder can perhaps have a little fun. Memphis is a bad team when relatively healthy/trying to win. Right now, they are in a mad dash to get this season over with and get as many ping pong balls in their favor as possible. They essentially sat down half of their team tonight with various ailments. In the case of Marc Gasol they just called it “rest.” Because I guess he won’t get enough of that over the next 5-6 months once their season ends Wednesday. They actually hung with the Wolves through three quarters tonight because even when teams “tank” the actual players on the floor don’t. These are generally guys trying to stick in the NBA, so they will play hard— at least for awhile. On Wednesday the Thunder need to come out focused like it’s a playoff game and put it away early. Memphis will absolutely wave the white flag early if the score is ugly. Potential is there for Thunder to coast and an easy win with additional rest isn’t going to hurt at all at this point. They shouldn’t take the game for granted, but in all reality, this should be an open and shut game. For the first time in well over a month the Thunder SHOULD give us a stress free night. If they do, the guarantee the six seed at a minimum with the 4 or 5 still very much in play depending on other results that evening. This is a much more comfortable place to be than I thought it would be prior to the Houston game. If indeed the Thunder have figured something out, the my did so at the absolute latest point possible without causing irreparable damage to their chances. Hope lives.

 

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.
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Blue out hustle Memphis for road victory

½The Oklahoma City Blue found the win in Mississippi as the Blue battled back to beat the Memphis Hustle 116-111 on Thursdaay afternoon.

The Blue improved to 13-11 and are tied for first in the Midwest division once again.

With no Daniel Hamilton, the Blue found other means of production. While Bryce Alford and Rashawn Thomas each scored 20 points, it was a combination of seven different players scoring in double figures that helped Oklahoma City tonight.

Their agressiveness became the difference. Four different players attempted at least seven free throws as the Thunder attempted 37 in all. Oklahoma City went 27-of-37 from the free throw line (73 percent). Durand Scott fouled for Memphis in the process.

It appeared to be a long night for the Blue as Memphis built a 43-30 lead with 7:06 left in the second quarter. it wasn’t until the end of the quarter when Oklahoma City finally found their footing.

Oklahoma City ended the half on a 12-3 run, capped off on a Markel Brown three-pointer with two seconds left in the half.

The Blue trails 57-55 at the half.

Amjyot Singh hit a three-pointer with 9:45 in the third quarter gave the Thunder a 64-61 lead for good.
It was in the middle of a 12-0 run and when the dust settled, Oklahoma City had their largest lead of 15 points.

Memphis closed to within four on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter but the Blue took care of business and kept the Hustle at bay.

The Oklahoma City Blue will take their five wins in six tries back to the Cox Convention Center as they host the South Bay Lakers, the G-League affiliate of the Los Angeles Lakers. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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What Westbrook needs for a triple-double

Mar 2, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after scoring during the second half of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center. The Blazers won 114-109. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

As the season winds down and the Thunder make their push for the playoffs, we’re sitting here wondering: What does Russell Westbrook have to do in order to average a triple-double for the season?

We know he needs 125 rebounds and 151 assists in his next 16 games. That’s a given, but will he reach there? According to Kevin Pelton at ESPN Insiders, Westbrook has a 70 percent shot at scoring the elusive goal.

As we know and assume, Westbrook’s toughest goal will be getting the assist goal. When his teammates aren’t making shots, it’s tough for him to hit that goal of 10 assists per game.

Right now, he’s on pace for 40 triple-doubles, as he has 32 through 66 games. A game short of where the pace should be. Oklahoma City is a cool 26-6 when the MVP front runner schools a triple-double on his opponents. Oklahoma City is a saltry 11-23 when he doesn’t. So, so much for stat padding.

Games against Brooklyn, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Orlando, Phoenix, Minnesota and Denver (twice) could be the best bets for Westbrook. He’s scored a triple-double against every team this season already. That’s eight with one remaining.

He has a career four triple-doubles vs. Houston already; including one this season. Memphis is another target. That would be Westbrook at 10. That would be a bit far fetched and it’s a bit far fetched, still, to say that Westbrook could exceed Robertson’s record. Though, we have to at least talk about the ability of Westbrook to do 10 triple-doubles in 16 games.

It’s also something we should address: If Westbrook is suspended for a game, his chances of tying Robertson’s 41 triple-doubles goes down by a wide margin. However, his ability to average a triple-double would probably sky rocket, due to less boards/assists needed to get there.

On April 2, look for Charlotte at home for Westbrook to aim for a triple-double. Though he says he doesn’t look for it, the Hornets are one of two teams (Chicago) who’ve stopped Westbrook in pursuit of a triple-double. He came awfully close the first time around, scoring only two assists shy.

If Westbrook stays on pace, we could see him tie Oscar Robertson on the last game of the season, which would be at home vs. Denver. To do that in front of a sold out Chesapeake Energy Arena, with a potential playoff battle on the line. Westbrook would show a nuclear performance maybe for the ages.

Worst case scenario, Westbrook finishes with 36 triple-doubles. Best case, Westbrook triple-doubles against all eight teams we mentioned above and ties or breaks Robertson’s 55-year old record on Wednesday, April 12.

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Thunder Game Day #39: at Chicago Bulls

Oklahoma City Thunder (22-16, 8-10 away) vs. Chicago Bulls (19-18, 12-7 home)
Monday, Jan. 9 :: 7:00 p.m. CST :: United Center (20,500)

Thunder Game Day #39: at chicago bullsvs. Thunder Digest

TV: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 676-5, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27, U-Verse 751/1751 HD)
Online Streamhere.
RadioWWLS Sports Animal 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: Oklahoma City is a 1½-point underdog. O/U is 207½
Notes: Thunder: here | Bulls: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • Oklahoma ended a three-game losing skid on Saturday night, they’ll look to continue their winning ways against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.
  • Another ho-hum triple-double for your MVP front-runner, Russell Westbrook on Saturday night.
  • Jimmy Butler hit a last second shot to knock out the Raptors on Friday night.
  • Chicago has won three of the last four against Oklahoma City.

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

  • You can catch the radio on Oklahoma City’s WWLS, 98.1 FM. Matt Pinto will be your play-by-play voice. If you’re in Tulsa, catch it on 1450 AM.
  • Brian Davis and Michael Cage call the game on the Thunder’s flagship station, Fox Sports Oklahoma. You can watch the game there, catch it on NBA League Pass, or use the Fox Sports App (If you’re in Oklahoma)

THAT’S A BUNCH OF BULL

  • According to the Chicago Bulls Encyclopedia, team owner Richard Klein was brainstorming nicknames for his new franchise in 1966 and wanted a name that portrayed Chicago’s status as the meat capital of the world.
  • Klein was considering Matadors and Toreadors when his young son exclaimed, “Dad, that’s a bunch of bull!”
  • The rest is somewhat dubious history.

SCOUTING THE BULLS

  • The Chicago Bulls are 19-18 on the season, eighth in the eastern Conference.
  • In their last 10 games, the Bulls are 5-5.
  • Chicago has beat the Thunder three of their last four games.
  • The Thunder is 9-6 all-time vs. Chicago all-time.
  • Chicago swept the season series with the Thunder last season.
  • Denzel Valentine (ankle) is a game-time decision.
  • Jimmy Butler (illness) is a game-time decision.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Chicago came on Feb. 24, 2013, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 102-72 (30-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (10 points) vs. the Bulls occurred during an 86-96 loss on Jan. 27, 2010.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK TRIP-DUBS

  • Russell Westbrook has 54 career triple-doubles, that’s best for sixth all-time.
  • 16 of the 54 are against Houston, Orlando, Washington, and Philadelphia. He has four against each team.
  • Russell Westbrook seven triple-doubles in a row this season is the most since 1989 when Jordan had seven in a row and 10 in 11 games.

INJURY REPORT

  • Oklahoma City is relatively healthy.

50 IS NIFTY

  • On March 24, the Thunder claimed a 22-point home victory over the Jazz and in the process, OKC recorded the team’s 50th win of the season.
  • Oklahoma City has now finished with a winning percentage of .610 (equivalent to 50 wins) six times dating back to the 2009-10 season.
  • Only the San Antonio Spurs (seven seasons with .610 winning percentage), have reached that benchmark more during this period.

STILL GOOD ODDS

  • According to Sportsbook, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the eighth best odds to win the Larry O’Brien trophy.
  • They have the fifth best odds to win the Western Conference behind, the Clippers, Spurs, Rockets, and the Warriors.

NEXT UP

  • Oklahoma City hosts Memphis on Wednesday night.
  • It’s going to be an ESPN affair for those not in Oklahoma.
  • Memphis thumped Oklahoma City 114-80 in their first meeting.
  • Russell Westbrook was ejected in the third quarter.
  • The Grizzlies are 24-16 on the season, fifth in the Western Conference.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Defend the three

Chicago is the worst three-point shooting team in the association. Oklahoma City cannot let the Bulls get hot. Chicago is shooting 33 percent in wins and only 28 percent in losses from deep. The Thunder have to keep Chicago more around the 28 percent mark.

Get to the free throw line

Oklahoma City needs free shots in this road contest to go down for the Thunder. Oklahoma City is taking 27 attempts in wins and Chicago is only allowing 17 attempts in their victories. If you can get to the free throw line, this could be something big tonight.

Hey Bench, show up

If the bench shows up, Oklahoma City runs away with this game. However, they’re non-existent at times, especially defensively. They have to find a way to defend, the Thunder are going to find a victory finally. We’ll see how that’ll work out before too long.

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Grizzlies steal one in OKC, shock Thunder 94-88

It reminded me of the 2011 playoffs between Memphis and Oklahoma City. The hard nosed defense, the body colliding offense, and Oklahoma City struggling in the half court offense. Memphis used 14 offensive rebounds in the first half to stay within striking defense of a decent shooting Thunder team to hold on and win 94-88. The loss for Oklahoma City dropped them to 40-13 on the season and 23-5 at home. Also, the loss ended their six game winning streak.

Oklahoma City led early in the first quarter but the Grizzlies fought back with extra chance points, The grizzlies had 16 second chance points in the first half. Oklahoma City fought from an early 5-11 deficit to take the lead 17-11. Memphis closed the quarter on a 11-6 run to end the first quarter with a thunder one-point lead.

Memphis really controlled the tempo throughout the game. They forced Oklahoma City into a half court offense all night. The Grizzlies limited Oklahoma City to just two fast break points for the ball game.

Oklahoma City closed the second quarter with the last five points, including a Thabo Sefolosha three-pointer which gave Oklahoma City the 44-42 lead at the break.

The second half was much more of the same, except for one thing. The Grizzlies were hitting shots. Memphis led by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter. Grizzlies led by eight points multiple times. Each and every time Oklahoma City made a run, the Grizzlies would find a way to keep their distance.

Oklahoma City trailed 87-78 with 3:15 to go in the game and then the Thunder tried to get back in it. Russell Westbrook scored the Thunder’s final six points of the ball game. However, would not be enough for them tonight. With :17.2 left in the game, OJ Mayo hit a three-point dagger as the shot clock wound down, giving the Grizzlies a four point advantage.

Post Game Grades

Keep up the pace: F
Memphis did exactly what they wanted. They forced Oklahoma City into a half court offense. Oklahoma City couldn’t do anything they wanted. The Pace was really slowed.  In fact, Oklahoma City had just two fast break points and they didn’t even come until late in the ball game when Memphis already had a decent lead.

Offensive Rebounds: D
Oklahoma City allowed Memphis to stay in the game with the offensive rebounding in the first half. The Grizzlies had 14 offensive rebounds. They had 10 at halftime, so that’s why I didn’t give them an F. They limited the Grizzlies with just four in the second half. However, the Grizzlies used 16 second chance points in the first half to keep themselves in what should have been a double-digit lead at the break.

Three-Point Shooting: D
OKC was just bad tonight from three-point land. You can give Memphis a lot of credit for that tonight. OKC was 5-21 from deep for just 24%. Enough said on that.

Thunder Thoughts

  • Russell Westbrook shot poorly tonight. Didn’t play well overall. I think the Grizzlies really just give him fits. I personally think he does much better with Mike Conely on the floor. Westbrook was 5-16 from the floor for 19 points. He was great at getting to the line and getting points when it matter for Oklahoma City.
  • Cannot say enough on how much Kevin Durant saved this team. When the Thunder needed a basket, he was your man. There wasn’t a lot of help for three quarters though. That said, Durant didn’t shoot exceptional either. He shot 40% tonight.  He was clutch in the third quarter though.
  • Tonight’s offense looked tired. I’m not the only one that saw it. Yeah, they had flashes in the fourth quarter, because that’s what elite teams do. However, just wasn’t enough tonight.
  • TWO fast break points all night. Memphis got back on defense while crashing the boards was just very impressive.
  • The ugly turnover bug reared its head tonight. 18 for Oklahoma City. Those 18 accounted for 23 for Memphis.
  • These are short and sweet tonight. Oklahoma City has to get ready for Miami tomorrow.

Next up: at Miami on Wednesday.

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Game Day #53: Grizzlies at Thunder

Memphis Grizzlies (28-22, 11-15 road) at Oklahoma City Thunder (40-12, 23-4 home)

 vs 

Where: The ‘Peake!
When: 7 p.m.
TV: FSOK (DirectTV 679, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27, U-Verse 754)
Online Stream: Here.
Radio: WWLS Sports Animal 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemy: Here.
Projected Lineups:

Thunder Grizzlies
PG Russell Westbrook Mike Conely
SG Thabo Sefolosha Tony Allen
SF Kevin Durant Rudy Gay
PF Serge Ibaka Marreese Speights
C Kendrick Perkins Marc Gasol
6th Man James Harden Zach Randolph

Last time:  The Thunder sent Memphis home with a 101-94 win at the ‘Peake.

This is the final match up for the Grizzlies-Thunder this season, pending they don’t meet again in the playoffs. However, all the games have been relatively close.  Expect this to be the same if history dictates anything.

The Grizzlies though, coming off a 99-95 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, are sitting at 28-22 on the season. They’re just 5-7 in their last 12 games.  They had some good wins, winning at the Lakers, and some bad losses, lost at home to the Raptors. They’re really a team that’s hard to predict right now.

Zach Randolph is slowly recovering from his knee injury. The Grizzlies forward had 25 points in his return from a torn right MCL on March 16 but he’s averaged 11.1 over the last eight games — 9.0 fewer than last season’s average — while mainly coming off the bench.

Look for Mike Conely to start for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies point guard has been out, but sources said they were saving him for this game.

The Thunder however, are one of the league’s hottest teams. They’ve won six in a row. They have wins over Miami, Chicago, Clippers and the Lakers. They’ve ran the proverbial gauntlet you could say.

Russell Westbrook has been insane over these last six games as well. He’s averaging over 28 points per game, while averaging less than 2.5 turnovers per game.

Then you have Kevin Durant. The league’s front-runner for MVP. This guy has just been lights out. It’s his to lose. Even Derrick Rose says he’s the MVP in his book.

Daequan Cook is still out for the Thunder.

Keys to the game

Keep up the pace
Memphis will try to slow Oklahoma City down. They’ve been really effective in the past to get Oklahoma City to play a half court game. Oklahoma City needs to get out and run, and keep this game in a frantic pace so they can keep the Grizzlies on their heels.

Offensive Rebound
The Grizzlies have been successful in the past at grabbing offensive boards against the Thunder. Oklahoma City must limit the opportunities now that the Grizzlies have Randolph back.

Three-Point Shooting
Harden was limited a bit against the Bulls.  However, Oklahoma City shot well against the Bulls from deep. Memphis has done well in the past at defending the three against OKC. However, Grizzlies rank 21st against the three this season.

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The Crushing of the Bulls

In a possible NBA Finals preview, the Oklahoma City Thunder led wire-to-wire against the team with the best record in the NBA, Chicago Bulls 92-78. The Thunder led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook who combined for 53 points in a game where Oklahoma City led by as much as 30 in the fourth quater. Oklahoma City improves to 40-12 on the season and 23-4 at home. The Bulls dropped to 42-12 and 21-7 on the road.

The Thunder came out on a hot start with Durant and Westbrook scoring the first 12 points against the Bulls. Chicago made a little run cutting it to 10-8 with 7:41 left in the first quarter. That was the closest they would ever be again in this game. Oklahoma City would go on a 8-2 run over the next 2:30, making it 18-10. Harden would hit a big three at the end of the first quarter, pushing it to 27-20.

Oklahoma City and Chicago played a very low, slow second quarter. A lot attributed to the defenses. OKC outscored the Bulls 22-19 and they extended the lead to ten points at 49-39 at halftime.

The Third quarter, the Thunder blew the doors off the Chesapeake Energy Arena in the third quarter. Just 2 1/2 minutes into the third quarter, the Bulls had to call a time out. Oklahoma City had started out the second half on a 8-2 run. It got worse for the Bulls. Oklahoma City with 5:52 to go in the quarter had outscored the bulls 20-5. The Thunder held the Bulls to just 12 points in the quarter.

With 8:34 to go in the ball game, James Harden made a driving layup, pushing the score to 86-56. It was the first time the game’s lead had reached 30 points.

Post Game Grades

Offensive Rebounding: A
This didn’t matter all. Bulls grabbed 18 boards while Oklahoma City didn’t even grab 5. Bulls grabbed 17 extra chance points off the rebounds.  However, 12 of the offensive rebounds were in the fourth quarter during mop up time. Honestly, this game would have ended with a bigger difference.

Shooting Efficiency: A+
The Thunder shot great from the floor all around. Over 40% from three-point range. 49% from the floor. They did this while holding the Bulls to shooting 33% from the floor and from three-point range.

Russell Westbrook: A+
Westbrook’s stat line: 5 assists, 27 points, 0 turnovers, 4 steals. Just blown away by how well this guy has been playing.  He started the game off by hitting the first shot.

Thunder Thoughts

  • I don’t think the Bulls stood a chance, even before the game. The electricity in the building. The way the players were during warm-ups. It was just something that was in the air this afternoon. It was proven true by a massacre at the ‘Peake
  • MVP front runner, Durant, just was something else. That dunk in the third quarter just really brought the house down. Not a person was sitting around.Might as well say they were jumping around.
  • Durant was just fantastic tonight. He was 11-16 for 26 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and a game high of +33. Hands down the MVP winner in my book.
  • Since acquiring Derek Fisher, Westbrook is averaging Over this six game winning streak, he’s averaged 28.7 points on 50.3 percent shooting. I’m not saying it’s a reason, but after six straight games… You have to start thinking it has to do something with it.
  • Harden struggled at times during this game. I don’t think it was really him as more it was the defense of the Bulls. Bulls did a great job really messing up the screen and roll, and trapping Harden. Doesn’t happen very often. If they were to meet in the NBA Finals, would be very curious on how Brooks would counter the way Chicago was covering Harden.
  • That third quarter was something else. OKC shot 57% in that quarter, including hitting their first five shots of the half.  Holding the Bulls to 12 points was the lowest since February 2010 against Dallas, when OKC held them to just 11 points.
  • The defense was just great. Holding the bulls to just 33% shooting from the floor. Scariest part is that the Bulls were shooting 38% at halftime. The defense turned it up, and really blocked out. They had limited the Bulls to just 6 offensive rebounds through three quarters.  It was the worst shooting performance by Chicago this season.
  • Oklahoma City has the best transition in the NBA. A lot of people said Miami, or the Clippers… or… Yeah.. it’s Oklahoma City. It’s so beautiful when Oklahoma City gets in transition. There are so many weapons.
  • I love the fact that no starters (for either team) played in the fourth quarter. While the Bulls used their scrubs to make a run, the Thunder starters did not play more than 32 minutes
  • Is Derrick Rose really 28 point difference? If he’s not, but is he really a 14 points difference? I don’t think so. Not against the Thunder. Maybe against a lot of teams.
  • Is Oklahoma City really on a 6 game winning streak by an average of 14 points during one of the toughest stretches of the season? Speechless.
  • With the win, Oklahoma City has clinched a playoff berth. They’re just 2 wins away from winning their second straight division title.

Next up: vs. Memphis tomorrow night.

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