Westbrook, Thunder look for better results against Grizzlies
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook was at a loss for words. It is not uncommon for someone who believes in brevity during most media exchanges.
But when Westbrook was asked what the temperature of the Oklahoma City Thunder locker room is after 28-point loss to the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, the all-star point guard had to search for the right words.
Westbrook and the Thunder hope to be talking about a win Friday night when they host the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I’m not sure. I’m not sure” Westbrook said after Oklahoma City allowed 128 points in its third straight loss. “We’ve just got to know how important games are, especially being a young team we’ve got to embrace games like this, especially once you beat a team earlier in the season they’re going to come back and be ready to play. And tonight, they outplayed us.
The Thunder have had to deal with defeats before. That is not uncommon during this injury plagued season that has seen key players such as Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo and now Enes Kanter sidelined for multiple games.
Being massively outplayed was not normal vocabulary coming from the Thunder but coach Billy Donavan wants his team to remember it and figure out how to improve.
“I hope our guys don’t do that,” Donovan said. “I think that would be the worst thing in the world to do. I have never been a big believer in that. I think you got to take what happened (Wednesday) and really reflect on why and what we can do to get better all of us: coaches and players. We all have a hand in it and need to figure out ways. In my opinion, it would be a mistake to say, ‘hey, it’s one of those nights.’ It’s back to back. It’s tough. You know, just move on. To me, you are not doing anything to prevent something like that from happening.”
Westbrook went without a triple-double for the second straight night as he compiled 28 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He had little help from the other starters, who combined for 27 points.
Memphis (30-21) is on a three-game winning streak following a pair of double-digit victories. After Mike Conley scored a career-high 38 points and the Grizzlies hit 16 3-pointers Monday in Phoenix, the follow up was equally as effected.
In Wednesday’s 119-99 win at Denver, Memphis sank 14 3-pointers while Marc Gasol scored 24 points and Conley added 18.
“Offensively, we’re playing good. We’re moving the ball,” Gasol said. “We’re finding the open guy and taking good shots but defensively we need to tighten it up a little bit and be more disciplined.”
“It feels like we’ve finally got a good little stride going,” Conley added ESPN.com. “I definitely think this is one of the best stretches we’ve played.”
Memphis is averaging 112 points and shooting 48.8 percent from long range in its last three games. The winning streak is part of a stretch that has seen the Grizzlies win eight of their last 13 games.
All 13 active players saw time Wednesday and figuring out the rotation is a task for new coach David Fizdale. He said he is close to a set rotation, but it seems it could change based on how games are unfolding.
“You’ve got to figure out what works. Obviously, I’m getting closer to a main rotation,” Fizdale told The Memphis Commercial Appeal. But all of these guys understand I’ll play any one of them. I’ve got a lot of confidence in all of them. I’ll throw anyone of them in the game and trust that they’ll get the job done. It’s a good problem to have.”
Westbrook recorded a triple-double in Oklahoma City’s 103-95 home win over Memphis on Jan. 11. He was ejected in the third quarter of a 114-80 loss at Memphis on Dec. 29.