Thunder-Grizzlies Preview

The Oklahoma City Thunder couldn’t keep up with the Memphis

Grizzlies in last season’s Western Conference semifinals without

the injured Russell Westbrook.

It’s the Grizzlies who will be short-handed this time

around.

The Thunder try to keep rolling when they visit injury-plagued

Memphis for the first time since the playoffs Wednesday night.

While Oklahoma City (16-4) got past Houston in the opening round

despite losing Westbrook to a torn meniscus in Game 2, coach Scott

Brooks’ team lasted just five games in a second-round series

against Memphis (10-10).

The Thunder, though, are close to full strength and again

looking like one of the NBA’s best teams. Oklahoma City has won

three straight and 11 of 12 after pulling out a 101-92 victory at

Atlanta on Tuesday.

“We finally got a couple stops in a row at the end,” said

Brooks, whose team limited the Hawks to 35.6 percent shooting. “Any

time you hold an NBA team in the 30s percent-wise in field goals,

then you’re doing a good job defensively.”

Kevin Durant scored 30 to go along with 10 rebounds while Serge

Ibaka added 19 and 10. Westbrook shot just 6 of 21 but finished

with 14 points, 11 assists and nine boards.

“You have nights when you don’t make shots, but you can’t have

nights when you don’t play defense,” said Westbrook, who also had

four steals. “I take pride in defending every single night and

trying to help my team win games.”

Durant is averaging 29.0 points in 29 meetings against the

Grizzlies since 2008-09, including playoffs. The Thunder have lost

three straight and eight of their last 11 in Memphis.

The Grizzlies dropped back-to-back games by an average of 23.0

points before beating Orlando 94-85 on Monday. Zach Randolph led

the way with 19 points and 12 rebounds while Jon Leuer added 16 and

12 off the bench.

Memphis, which continues to play without star center Marc Gasol

due to a sprained MCL, was also missing forward Ed Davis (ankle)

and guard Tony Allen (hip). Before the game, the Grizzlies

announced swingman Quincy Pondexter will be out indefinitely with a

stress fracture in his right foot.

“Guys are stepping up. That’s what we need. We need everybody

now,” Randolph said. “It’s tough. It’s real tough. We’ve got to

just come out and play. Everyone has to step up like they’ve been

doing.”

Leuer is averaging 15.0 points over the last four games, more

than double his season mark of 7.3

“We’ve had a lot of guys go down,” he said. “It obviously makes

it tough, but it opens up other opportunities for guys to come in

and contribute.”

Memphis is giving up 96.0 points per game, a significant drop

off from last season’s NBA-leading mark of 89.3. The Grizzlies are

2-9 when surrendering more than 93 points compared to 8-1 when they

don’t.

Oklahoma City is averaging 104.6 points to rank among the

league’s highest-scoring teams.

Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha is uncertain to be available after

missing Tuesday’s win with a sprained right knee.