Durant Likely Out Again Tonight Against Memphis
By Randy Renner
Thunder superstar forward Kevin Durant participated in some drills during today's shootaround and his sprained right big toe is feeling better.
Durant's status has now been upgraded to "questionable" for tonight's game with Memphis. Head coach Billy Donovan will speak with reporters at 6:45 and at that time we should find out if KD is a go for tonight's game or if he will miss his second straight game.
Durant was moving around a little easier and that sprained right big toe was feeling a little better yesterday but the feeling then was that he will most likely miss tonight’s game with the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I think he still has some soreness in his foot,” head coach Billy Donovan told reporters after yesterday’s practice. “I think it’s one of those things where (the trainers and team doctors) are re-evaluating him and seeing where he’s at.”
The Thunder spent most of their time going over scouting tape on Memphis and doing a walk-through of the game plan. Durant was out on the floor for that but did not participate in any speed drills yesterday.
He is officially being listed as day-to-day. Donovan will be updated by Durant and team doctors at today’s shootaround session but the feeling yesterday was the Durant will most likely be in street clothes cheering his teammates on from the bench tonight, missing his second straight game.
The Thunder are 3-4 without Durant this season. Memphis, though, will still have to deal with Russell Westbrook, the co-Western Conference Player of the Month for December with Durant.
Westbrook's averages bump up from 25.3 to 30.4 points, 7.3 to 10.1 assists and 5.3 to 7.7 rebounds in seven games without Durant this season, including a 40-point performance in a 122-114 loss at Memphis on November 16th. He finished with 17 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds against Sacramento, but made just 2 of his 15 shots after halftime and finished with seven turnovers.
In that game Monday it seemed like the Thunder probably missed Durant most on defense. Anthony Morrow started for KD and scored 20 points but the defense was problematic again.
“Yeah for us it was the defense,” agreed Donovan. “Kevin helps from a rebounding standpoint and he helps with his length,” to clog up passing lanes and disrupt an opponent’s ball movement. “But we can do better even without Kevin.”
And they better. The Grizzlies are back to playing the way we’re used to seeing them play. Pound the ball inside. Sacramento hurt the Thunder on Monday in the paint with DeMarcus Cousins scoring 33 points and grabbing 19 rebounds. The Memphis bigs are capable of big nights too.
“It’s always a physical game against them, they’re one of the few teams that still really tries to throw the ball inside a lot,” said forward Nick Collison. “So we’ll need good play from all our guys.”
Center Steven Adams got into foul trouble Monday taking on Cousins, he’d played well against the Kings star on December 6th and Adams has also had good games guarding Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph when he hasn’t been saddled with early fouls.
“These are things (defense and fouling) that have been a challenge for us,” Donovan admitted, “and we need to get better at that and be more consistent.”
Memphis, now 19-17, has gotten better on defense lately. The Grizz had problems early in the season stopping teams but lately they’ve turned that around. They’ve held opponents to 92.5 points per game since December 14th, a return to their Top-5 defensive form of the previous four seasons. The Grizzlies are 6-5 during the stretch, winning three of the last four. Just one of those opponents entered Tuesday as a Top-10 scoring team while four ranked 25th or worse.
Oklahoma City, now 24-11 ranks second in the league with 108.5 points per game, a number that rises to 109.7 while the Thunder have won 11 of their last 13 home games.
This Memphis team, even though it’s back to a more familiar grind it out style, is still looking and playing a bit differently than Grizzlies teams of years past. They have used a smaller lineup in the last month, shifting Randolph to the bench. The 15-year veteran has welcomed the role and matched a season high with 26 points while grabbing 18 rebounds in Monday's 91-78 win at Portland.
"I'm a team-first guy," Randolph said. "It's not about me, it's about winning and whatever the coach thinks is best for the team. So that's how I'm approaching it."
Oklahoma City won this season's second matchup 125-88 at Memphis on December 8th behind 32 points from Durant. The Grizzlies have won four of the last six meetings, though the Thunder have won four of five in Oklahoma City.
Remember tonight’s game tips late (8:30) because it’s the second game of ESPN’s national TV double-header. The game will also be on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
As usual we’ll post updates from shootaround and from early warmups at The Peake on our Twitter feed page. Donovan will speak to reporters at 6:45, that’s when we expect to officially hear an update on Durant and whether he will play or who might be playing in his place.