Truth to be told, Memphis started the game on an 8-2 run, and for the Thunder, it looked all over again like the game they dropped in Los Angeles. However, this time Oklahoma City was able to shake the bad start and replied with a 33-10 run to end the first quarter. From there on the Thunder just controlled the game, for every little comeback the Grizzlies did, Oklahoma City had an immediate answer.
With this win, the Thunder are back in the fifth spot (32-25), but the battle for the playoffs it’s far from over: Utah, who sits at the tenth spot, is only 3.5 games behind the Thunder.
Paul George apparently likes first quarters. Once again he started the game hot and finished the first twelve minutes with 16 points. This is the eighth time in the past twelve games that George scores ten or more points in the first quarter. He managed the ball well when he played point guard: Paul attacked the basket when the defense gave him space and looked for open teammates when his shot wasn’t there. George’s final stat line: 33 points (10-24 FG, 5-10 3PT, 8-11 FT), 8 assists, and 3 steals.
Alex Abrines played like Thunder’s fans were hoping to see him playing since the beginning of the season. Abrines looked really confident on offense, and he was solid defensively. Alex scored all his 16 points in the first half, which was very impressive. Despite he went scoreless in the second half, Abrines remained engaged defensively: this is indeed a big plus.
Memphis’ players were unable to stop Jerami Grant without fouling him. Grant took ten free throws, he only scored on five of them, but it’s great to see how much he improved compared to the previous years. He still looks a bit out of balance when he attacks the rim, but Grant can indeed finish more constantly in the paint area. Last night, he scored again in double-digits, the fifteenth time this season. For comparison, last season he scored in double-digits only eight times.
Last night, the Thunder tied a franchise record with sixteen three-pointers made. George and Abrines combined for nine of those. The three-point shooting was indeed a positive note, however, Oklahoma City still struggles from the free throw line. Yesterday, the Thunder took forty free throws attempts and scored only twenty-six of them. That’s bad, really bad. The Thunder are 29th in the league in free throw percentage (70.7%). Most of it has to do with Westbrook’s struggles from the line but to be a solid contender, free throw shooting is an area that has to improve by playoff time.
After an awful performance in Los Angeles without Westbrook and Anthony, it was impressive to see Oklahoma city playing with more energy and composure. Obviously, the Grizzlies are not a really good team, but neither are the Lakers, so it was interesting to see the approach the team had last night. For the second unit it was important to play some meaningful minutes, and this time around, they delivered an overall good performance.
- FG% 44.2, 3P% 43.2, FT% 65.0, ASSISTS 21, REBOUNDS 38, STEALS 6, TURNOVERS 10
- FG% 39.0, 3P% 21.4, FT% 91.7, ASSISTS 21, REBOUNDS 47, STEALS 4, TURNOVERS 17
The Thunder will play on Tuesday night at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers, tip-off 7 p.m. CT.
Photos by Layne Murdoch