Thunder Face Bear Of A Bounce Back Game
By Randy Renner
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant told reporters before Sunday's game with Boston that his strained left hamstring is feeling better, "a lot better" is how KD put it.
But it isn't feeling good enough for Durant to trade in his suit for a uniform tonight so the Thunder will try to find enough energy on the second night of a back-to-back to beat the Grizzlies in the Grindhouse.
OKC got off to a solid start against the Celtics, leading by 11 in the first half and pretty much in control at halftime. But they started going south in the third quarter and fell off a cliff in the fourth, managing a mere two baskets and seven free throws.
"I got no answers for that," Thunder center Enes Kanter relied when asked about the fourth quarter collapse.
"Just one of those nights," is how Dion Waiters explained it.
The best explanation probably came from superstar point guard Russell Westbrook when he said, "We needed to pick our intensity up physically. Just wasn't ready."
And now the Thunder don't have much time to find some answers. They climbed aboard their charter jet and flew to Memphis right after last night's game and will take on the physically demanding Grizzlies tonight.
"We know it's gonna be a grinder," Waiters said. "We know how they play, it's nothing new to us. We know they're going to feed the bigs and they're going to bang."
Thunder head coach Billy Donovan thinks his team might actually welcome that. The Celtics didn't really play with any big bangers down low, their bigs tend to stretch the floor and can go all the way out to the arc. Memphis plays much more traditionally with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph not shying away from mixing it up in the paint.
"Probably for Steven (Adams), Enes (Kanter) and those guys it's probably a little but more of a comfortable game for them so to speak, playing around the basket," Donovan said.
The Thunder will need a strong game from most everyone tonight, something they got from almost no one last night.
Westbrook had a triple-double in each of his previous two, but he finished 5 of 20 from the field with four rebounds and five assists. He scored 27 points, with 15 coming at the free-throw line.
Serge Ibaka was the only other player in double figures with 16 for Oklahoma City, which shot a season-worst 36.4 percent.
"We just have to lock in and do what we're supposed to do, and do it for 48 minutes," Westbrook said.
Facing the Grizzlies could be even more of a challenge with Durant out, as they've had some success defending Westbrook. He's shooting 27.5 percent from the floor while averaging 18.7 points over his last three against them.
Memphis (5-6) has won three of the last four meetings but hasn't been as strong defensively as in previous years, allowing an average of 101.1 points per game. It is on the verge of allowing at least 100 in four straight for the first time since March 6-12, 2011.
The Grizzlies had enough offense to overcome their defensive issues in the last two, though. They beat Portland 101-100 on Friday before shooting a season-best 56.3 percent in Sunday's 114-106 win at Minnesota after entering the contest shooting a league-worst 40.1 percent.
Jeff Green, the former Thunder forward, replacing struggling guard Courtney Lee in the starting lineup, scored 21 points and Mike Conley added 20. Conley hit 7 of 14 from the field and 4 of 6 from 3-point range after shooting 34.7 percent from the floor over his first 10.
Gasol has struggled in his last four against the Thunder, shooting 38.8 percent while averaging 12.5 points.
Facing a team with a different style of play it will be interesting to see if Donovan deviates from the lineup he's used in these first two games without Durant with Anthony Morrow starting at shooting guard and Andre Roberson moving over to small forward. Roberson will for sure remain in the lineup but Morrow may not. He played well against Philadelphia but was scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting against Boston.
Tipoff is set for 7:10 tonight at FedEx Forum. You can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder return to action at The Peake Wednesday night against New Orleans.