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
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
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
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
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.