By Randy Renner
When the Thunder played the Grizzlies in Memphis three weeks ago it really didn't look very much like any of the previous 38 times the teams had met just since the beginning of the 2010 season.
That's mostly because neither team played much defense and the Grizzlies were bombing away from beyond the arc and hitting most of what they were putting up. Memphis was 12-for-17 (70.6 percent) from three that night and scored 122 points. That remains the most points the Grizzlies have scored in any game this season and that night the Grizz were better on long balls than any other game, in fact over the last four contests Memphis is just 13-for-54 (24.1 percent) from deep.
The Thunder have certainly had their problems at both ends of the floor at times this season but that game is perhaps the most out of character either team has been all season.
The Thunder should be better tonight mainly because Kevin Durant will play. Remember he was out with that hamstring injury the last time these teams went at it and the Thunder are playing much better defense (no really they are).
I know they've had problems with defense and offense in some fourth quarters but overall, over the last six games the Thunder are allowing opponents to score just 95.5 points a game which is 5th best in the NBA over that stretch while shooting 41.2 percent overall (8th best shooting defense) and 29.4 percent (3rd) from beyond the arc.
The Thunder are hoping the Grizzlies play more like themselves tonight than what they ran into last time in Memphis. For the season the Grizz are 24th in the NBA in pace and tied for 25th in transition field goals while scoring just 96.3 points a game (27th) on 42.3 percent shooting overall (27th) and 30.8 percent (29th) on threes.
The Thunder defense has gotten better but the offense keeps struggling, OKC is shooting just 29.6 percent on threes in the last four games, and superstar point guard Russell Westbrook enters in a 3-for-19 funk from beyond the arc.
Durant is 3-for-13 in the last two games while committing 15 turnovers, including 10 on Sunday, but he hit the go-ahead jumper with 23 seconds to go and two free throws with 4.4 seconds left in that 98-95 win over Sacramento.
"That's what your best player does," Westbrook said. "He's not going to play perfect every night, but you can see he closed the game for us and did a good job defensively."
Durant hasn't surpassed 25 points in three consecutive games for the first time since last December, and his 20 points Sunday were his second-fewest of the season. Westbrook had 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the Thunder improved to 3-0 when he has a triple-double. He's had three against the Grizzlies, all in the postseason.
Head coach Billy Donovan is still working to push the right buttons so the Thunder can find more consistency. So far this season the Thunder have had games where they've pivoted, not just from good to bad but from great to terrible.
Hopefully tonight the Thunder can travel merely through hills and valleys instead of from mountain top to canyon floor.
Tipoff is set for 7:10 and you can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma.