Thunder Lose Ugly In Memphis

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

It was one of those games you figured had to be coming, the Thunder had strung together four straight wins and five victories in their last six starts.

So a dud, especially on the road, would probably be hard to avoid.

A dud yes, but a total meltdown? Including an ejection of Russell Westbrook?

That wasn’t really on the radar but it is what happened inside the place they still call The Grindhouse.

Memphis 114, Thunder 80.

This was so bad the Thunder didn’t even win a quarter and they were outscored 36-19 over the last 12 minutes.

“Leading up to this game we had been playing very good basketball. Give Memphis a lot of credit. They played very well,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “They did a terrific job defensively. They’ve been good defensively all year long. There were a lot of things we could have done a whole lot better.”

Like say taking care of the basketball. The Thunder turned it over 19 times leading to 24 Grizzlies points. And yes give that Memphis defense credit but the Thunder also managed to miss open shots, shooting just 33.8 percent overall and 18.2 percent from deep.

Steven Adams, normally an excellent shooter down low was just 1-for-9, Alex Abrines who’d been hot during the winning streak was 2-for-11, Westbrook was 6-for-19.

"We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in a lot of cases when we had opportunities,” Donovan explained. “They shot the basketball well (52.4 percent) and they made some plays and made shots when necessary.”

The Thunder had struggled all night but halfway through the 3rd quarter all realistic hope of coming back was lost when Westbrook, who’d been frustrated by the officiating, boiled over. He thought a shot by Marc Gasol had missed the rim, the officials ruled it struck iron so the shot clock reset after the Grizzlies got the ball back.

Official Brian Forte T’d Westbrook up when he kept arguing the call and then T’d and tossed him when he appeared to say “that’s bull---t.”

Westbrook was not happy about the situation when talking to reporters after the game.

“I get so many techs just for talking,” Westbrook said. “Just for talking. I can’t even say nothing when I’m getting hammered every time I go to the damn basket throughout the games, previous games. Not tonight, but every night. I just don’t get reffed the same way as other people, and I don’t appreciate it.”

Donovan agreed.

“I think when he got the technical foul, he was surprised, but I think it’s like a buildup of he’s a really difficult guy to referee,” Donovan said. “He’s really fast. He’s really explosive. And I’ve said this before: he should go to the free-throw line 20 times a game. And a lot of time, he’s getting hit, he’s getting fouled and there needs to be more fouls called.”

The technicals were Westbrook’s 9th and 10th of the season, six more and he’ll face a one game suspension.

Westbrook has been close to the limit before but has never been suspended. But piling up 10 techs in the span of two months is likely a record for him and he will have to pick his spots to spout off at the officials with still three-and-a-half months to go in the regular season.

Both he and Donovan have a point though and maybe the NBA needs to fast-track its experiment of placing at least one more official on the floor to get a better look at what’s happening in there among the trees.

The Thunder will host the LA Clippers Saturday night in their annual New Year’s Eve game at The Peake.


Randy RennerComment