The Oklahoma City Thunder trailed for much of Sunday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, and after trailing for nearly the entire game, the Thunder took the lead off a Russell Westbrook jump shot with just 33 seconds left in the game. They held on and got away with the 99-95 win over Memphis.
The Grizzlies came into tonight’s matchup as the lowest-scoring team in the NBA, but they were able to get some buckets pretty early tonight. Delon Wright led Memphis early with 9 points in the first quarter, and three other guys–Avery Bradley, CJ Miles, Bruno Caboclo–had 5 each.
The Thunder’s second unit was able to offer some energy, though, as Abdel Nader led the Thunder with 8 points early. After the first period, the Grizzlies led 28-25.
Both teams cooled off in the second quarter, and through the first five-and-a-half minutes of the period, both teams scored only 6 points each. The scoring picked up from that point forward, but the Thunder continued to struggle to hit shots, making just 34.8% from the floor in the first half, while the Grizzlies continued to knock down shots at a high rate, making 51.3% of theirs. At the half, Memphis led 52-46.
The third quarter has typically been a strong spot for the Thunder, but that was not the case tonight. The team continued to struggle shooting the rock, and any time they were able to get shots to go in, the Grizzlies answered right back.
At one point, Memphis led by 13, their largest of the night, but the second unit once again offered some positive energy. The bench was able to cut into the deficit, and at the end of the third, the Grizzlies led 75-67.
The fourth quarter looked like the final straw in what would be the fifth consecutive loss for the Thunder, a new longest losing streak for the season. That was not the case, however, as the Grizzlies could not hit a shot, mostly due to some solid defense and rebounding from the Thunder.
After struggling to hit shots all game long, Russell Westbrook hit the two most important ones of the game as he nailed a game-tying 3 with a little over minute to go follow by an elbow jumper with 33 seconds left to put OKC up by 2. The Thunder would hold on from that point and escape with the 99-95 victory.
Thunder Player of the Game
Abdel Nader provided some scoring off the bench, and for much of the game he led the Thunder in points. Nader finished with 15 points on 4-10 (40.0%) from the field–including 3-6 (50.0%) from three–as well 2 rebounds and 2 steals. OKC’s bench has been a question mark at times, and on a night where Schröder struggled with his shot, Nader’s offense was much needed.
3 Quick Thoughts
- It Starts With Defense: The Thunder’s defense has not been up to par for a while now, and for most of the game, even against the NBA’s lowest-scoring team, OKC struggled to get stops. The comeback that led the Thunder to the eventual victory, however, took place in the final 7-and-a-half minutes as Memphis shot just 1-15 (6.7%) from the floor. Had the defense not locked in and forced some tough shots–and had Memphis not missed a couple of wide open ones–the Thunder would have had no chance at winning this game.
- Trust Teammates: Much of tonight’s offense looked like players trying to take the game into their own hands. Many times over the last couple of years, Russell Westbrook has been forced to take over games. Tonight, however, anybody who had the ball in their hands looked like they felt the sole responsibility to get points on the board. Westbrook did not shoot particularly well (7-20, 35.0%), but neither did Dennis Schröder (6-22, 27.3%), Jerami Grant (3-11, 27.3%), or Markieff Morris (3-9, 33.3%). This team is at its best when the ball is moving and points are coming off of assists. Tonight, the team had just 19 assists, and against just about any other team in the league, that won’t cut it.
- A Win is a Win: Tonight’s win was perhaps the ugliest of the entire season so far, but in the end, a win is a win. Moving forward, the Thunder needs to continue to tweak things and improve, but they cannot spend too much time looking back on this one in terms of “what could have happened.” On the positive side of things, the 4-game losing streak is in the rearview mirror, and now they need to figure out a way to string some wins together.
Back on the Road
The Thunder is now headed back out on the road, this time for a 4-game road trip that starts in Minnesota against the Timberwolves on Tuesday. The Thunder is 0-2 against the Wolves so far this season, and OKC has won just once in their last 6 matchups with Minnesota. The Timberwolves are 5.5 games back from a playoff spot, and the Thunder needs to take tonight’s win and keep it rolling. Tip-off is set for 7 PM CT and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The game will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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