With 3:18 left in the game, the Grizzlies were down by four. Rudy Gay shot his first of two free throws, and the ball bounced off the back of the rim. After turning around and taking a breather, Rudy came back to the line. The second free throw attempt went up, and the ball bounced right back in his face as he ran back to play defense. The crowd let out a huge sigh. The Grizzlies never saw light again.
The ninth game of the season brought the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Forum. Following a bad beat to the Lakers, the Grizzlies wanted to continue the hard defensive style that forced 27 turnovers while learning to polish the offense in whatever way they could.
Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned.
It has to be mentioned again, even though it's been said over and over again: the Grizzlies are without Zach Randolph (bruised knee). Darrell Arthur is out for the season with a torn ACL. Hamed Haddadi decided that he'd take this one out for personal reasons. That left the Grizzlies with recently acquired 6'10" Marreese Speights at power forward.
The first half was encouraging for the Grizzlies - Grizzlies were on-point offensively in the first half and the mid-range game was nearly flawless. Marc Gasol played a wall of defense. Michael Conley started the game on fire and played stellar offense. Never in the first half did the Grizzlies defense "give" points to the Thunder - every possession was hard fought and each point was earned.
Then, came the third quarter. The third quarter started off with a continued stellar performance from Tony Allen, who ended the night with 8 points in 28 minutes. Next thing you know, the Thunder turn around on a 12-1 run and the Grizzlies are down. The Grizzlies could only claim 1 FG made in the last 5:20 of the third quarter. The entire game from this point forward was the uphill battle that was required to perform the comeback.
Mix sloppy shots and a sloppy defense, the Grizzlies' merely couldn't handle the offense of the Thunder. This is a team that, if left open, will hit the three-pointers. The top height that came off the bench was only 6'8" - combine that with Durant and Westbrook's combined 52 points and there's not much an inexperienced bench can do.
Some good things from the game worth pointing out:
- Marc Gasol is a player that one can always count on doing something well. He's no Zach Randolph, but he plays center like the best of them. He went into the locker room with 20 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 blocks.
Mike Conley played at his offensive best: 15 points. It felt great seeing him weave through Oklahoma City's defense like he planned it.
- The Grizzlies forced 15 turnovers while only allowing 9. Beautiful, Memphis style basketball.
- In many aspects, the Grizzlies played a better basketball game than the opposing team tonight - 8 more shots on goal, 6 more turnovers, 6 more points in the paint. They merely didn't do a great job guarding the arc.
After the loss, the Grizzlies fall to 3-6 and are in tie for 10th in the West. On Thursday, the Forum will welcome the Knicks.
For more coverage on the Oklahoma City Thunder, visit Welcome to Loud City.
To check out some coverage on the Knicks, head over to Posting and Toasting.