Thunder face Grizzlies in battle of early disappointments
Two of the Western Conference’s biggest disappointments this season square off Saturday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder visit the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Thunder found no magic cure south of the border Thursday night when they fell to 11-13 with a 100-95 loss to the Brooklyn Nets in Mexico City.
Oklahoma City hasn’t won a game away from home since Halloween, dropping eight straight on the road.
The loss to the Nets dropped the Thunder into last place in the Northwest Division and out of playoff position in the Western Conference.
The Thunder was without Paul George in Mexico City because of a bruised calf. A decision on his availability for Saturday’s game will be made after the club’s morning shootaround.
Not all was a total loss for the Thunder on the trip. Center Steven Adams said he enjoyed the visit.
“Everyone’s so lovely here,” he said. “Well, I think they mean well. I don’t understand them, but they smile and say it.”
The Thunder gets a chance to bounce back against a Memphis team that has crashed far harder than Oklahoma City this season.
The Grizzlies (8-17) lost for the 13th time in their last 14 games Friday night, blowing a 17-point lead in a 116-107 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Raptors.
The game began a consecutive-night, two-game home sequence for the Grizzlies, who beat Minnesota 95-92 on Monday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.
In an effort to lessen the damage of star guard Mike Conley’s Achilles tendon injury, the Grizzlies inserted Andrew Harrison into the starting lineup against the Raptors for the first time since Nov. 1.
Harrison recorded a season-high seven assists to go with six points, and Tyreke Evans, who was shifted over to shooting guard, poured in 27 points, but it wasn’t enough as Toronto out-finished Memphis 24-14 to pull out the win.
Grizzlies rookie Dillon Brooks, who had one of his worst games of the season with just two points, explained the firing of coach David Fizdale and Conley’s injury are starting to weigh heavily on the team.
“I was really close with coach Fiz,” he said. “We talked a lot about the game and hung out a lot off court, so it is tough to see coach leave. That’s never happened to me before. In all my years at Oregon, it was the same guy (Dana Altman) throughout. So that was a learning experience.
“I feel like as a rookie, I have already been through maybe like five years of the NBA. Coach getting fired, the changes that created, my point guard getting injured … so I feel like I’m five years in.”
Saturday’s game pits rivals who met three times in four seasons in the postseason, with Oklahoma City claiming a pair of seven-game triumphs in 2011 and 2014. In between, the Grizzlies used a 4-1 win to reach the Western Conference Finals in 2013.
The Thunder has prevailed in five of the last six regular-season meetings, including two of the last three at Memphis.