The Oklahoma City Thunder entered tonight’s matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies as losers of five of their last six, and despite missing Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony due to sprained ankles, the Thunder was able to dominate early and hold on to a big lead to win 110-92.

After a terribly slow start for the Thunder which allowed the Grizzlies to jump out to a 6-0 lead, Paul George was able to get some things going and carry Oklahoma City to an impressive first quarter. George managed to score 16 points on 6/9 from the field, including 3/4 from three, and the Thunder shot 7/8 from beyond the arc as Oklahoma City took a 35-18 lead after twelve minutes of play.

Jerami Grant kept the pace going for the Thunder to start the second quarter as he managed to draw five fouls on Memphis players and score five points in the first two-and-a-half minutes. Oklahoma City stayed hot from deep, knocking down 5/9 from three in the period to make them 12/17 for the half. George upped his total scoring to 22 points through two quarters, and Alex Abrines scored 10 points in the second to bring his halftime total to 16 as the Thunder took a 74-54 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Oklahoma City picked up right where they left off to start the second half as Raymond Felton and Paul George both hit threes early in the quarter. Patrick Patterson poured in seven points in the third to give him 14 for the game, but as a team, the Thunder shot just 6/22 (27.3%) in the period. Because of Oklahoma City’s poor shooting, the Grizzlies were able to chip into the lead just a little bit, but with only 12 minutes left in the game, Oklahoma City led 95-80.

With the game basically in the bag for the Thunder, Oklahoma City jumped on the Grizzlies to start the fourth by outscoring Memphis 12-3 through the first five minutes of play. The run gave the Thunder a 27-point lead, but the Grizzlies refused to quit, and over the next three minutes, Memphis ran off seven quick points to make it 107-87 with just under four minutes left in the game. Oklahoma City maintained the rest of the way, despite a solid effort by Memphis, and the rest is history.

3 Quick Thoughts

  • Role Players are Capable: Alex Abrines, Raymond Felton, Jerami Grant, and Patrick Patterson combined for 58 points, 23 rebounds, and 12 assists. While their individuals performances were more of an exception than a rule, the point stands that these guys are all capable of playing at a high level. With the absence of Andre Roberson for the rest of the season, and with missing Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony the last couple of games, this was the type of night that these guys needed to have to gain some confidence moving forward. While it would be unrealistic to expect this type of night regularly, it’s not too farfetched to hope for continual improvement from role players.
  • Free Throw Shooting is a Concern: Despite Oklahoma City’s ability to knockdown threes at an abnormally high rate, the Thunder continued to struggle from the free throw line. Oklahoma City was able to get to the line over and over again because Memphis fouls so often, but despite attempting 40 free throws, the Thunder was only able to knock down 26 of them. 65% from the charity stripe is below even their 29th-ranked season average of 70.8%. In close games against good teams, an inability to knock down free throws is an issue that could be the difference in a win or a loss. The Thunder is not going to all of a sudden figure out how to make free throws, but surely they can do better moving forward than they did tonight.
  • On to the Next One: Tonight’s game was a solid win, but it was against a bad team. It is fun to take time and celebrate the quality stats, like knocking down a franchise-tying record 16 threes, but the Thunder cannot dwell on this win for too long. The Cleveland Cavaliers visit Oklahoma City on Tuesday, and the Thunder are working hard to move up in the Western Conference standings, so every game counts. Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony should hopefully be ready to return to action, but if not, the next guy up needs to be ready.

Up Next

The Thunder stay at home in Oklahoma City where they will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night. The Cavs had the league buzzing last Thursday as they made a number of roster moves leading up to the NBA Trade Deadline. With that updated roster, Cleveland had a fairly easy time dismantling the Celtics in Boston 121-99, giving the Cavs their third consecutive win. Tuesday’s night matchup will tip at 7 PM CT and will be televised on TNT and FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on WWLS 98.1 FM.

Don’t forget to check out the latest episode of Thunder Things With the Thunder Guys.

Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter & Instagram, and like us on Facebook.