Thunder Face Bear Fight Tonight In Memphis

By Randy Renner

The Thunder go into tonight's game in Memphis hoping to keep their heads above water in the Western Conference playoff race.

Oklahoma City is just one game up on the New Orleans Pelicans in the loss column and if the Thunder lose tonight and the Pelicans win in Sacramento the teams will be tied and since New Orleans has the tie-breaker a tie in the standings really means OKC is a game behind.

So tonight's game looms rather large, especially considering the Thunder's next two games are against Houston and San Antonio. At least both those games are at home but with the Thunder defense in shambles at the moment playing the Rockets and Spurs anywhere won't be easy.

Which brings us back to Memphis.

The Grizzlies might be just what the Thunder need because their offense has been struggling as bad as the Thunder's defense has been. Memphis has scored 100 or more points just five times in the last 26 games while averaging just 93.4 points.

The Thunder gave up more than that in just three quarters Wednesday against Dallas.

Of course I suppose Grizz fans are looking at the matchup just the opposite, the Thunder are just what they need at this point since they're giving up 110.4 points a game over their last 15 and are coming off an embarrassing performance against Dallas when they gave up 135 points on 61.5 percent shooting.

The Thunder have played well against Memphis this season, they've lost two of the three but haven't given up more than 91 points. In their last meeting, in Oklahoma City on February 11th, the Thunder won 105-89 and allowed the Grizz to shoot just 37.2 percent.

The Thunder were a lot healthier then though. Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson and Nick Collison all played in that game. None of them will play tonight.

It should be fascinating to watch how things transpire tonight and how the Thunder continue to deal with their ongoing injury problems. As bad as things have been, they could get considerably worse tonight.

Center Steven Adams sprained his right ankle late in Wednesday's game. He didn't practice on Thursday and will be a game time decision tonight. If he can't go the Thunder will be left with only two healthy "bigs," Enes Kanter and rookie Mitch McGary. When one of them needs a blow, Perry Jones would have to go in, or maybe Steve Novak or the Thunder would have to go super small.

They will also likely play a lot of zone defense tonight, especially if Adams can't go. By the way Kanter was a little "limpy" at the Thunder practice facility yesterday but he said he expects to play tonight.

The Grizzlies could be without former OSU star Tony Allen. He's missed their last two games with a sore hamstring. Allen is their best perimeter defender so the Thunder would catch a break there if he has to stay on the bench.

The Thunder will be back home Easter Sunday, hosting James Harden and the Houston Rockets.