Oklahoma City Thunder 89 - Memphis Grizzlies 91
The Grizzlies gave us another performance that shows us all the ways we love them and all the ways we hate them. They've become a high-wire act this season. Fearlessly walking the tightrope through six undefeated games, they've provided fans with an experience of satisfying anguish that has teased, delighted, frightened and proven triumphant. It's been the best six games of some of the most bizarre basketball I've seen in a while.
So maybe it's been more of a freak show than a tightrope walk. For the casual NBA fan, it's pretty grotesque. For Grizzlies fans, it's been enthralling. Here's how Memphis got to 6-0 last night in OKC:
- Tony Allen attempted an alley-oop to Z-Bo, but apparently had a flashback and thought he was throwing it to Rudy Gay as it went soaring into the crowd.
- Marc Gasol floats in a brick that somehow falls in courtesy of his soft touch. It would be the only basket that Marc makes in the first half. This really set the stage for the emotional fury I'd be experiencing later on in the game.
- No one really got going for the Grizzlies to start the game, but they managed so many possessions that they still ended up outscoring the Thunder with 38% shooting in the 1st quarter.
- Offensively it wasn't happening, but defensively the Griz showed their usual ferocity. Tony Allen finished with 3 steals in the period. Even with a smaller lineup, the Memphis starting crew has shown to be a nightmare on defense.
- The poor shooting wasn't from lack of ball movement. The Grizzlies assisted 7 of their 9 made FGs to start the game. They were getting the looks, but the shots weren't going down for most players.
- Y'all, Jon Leuer is breaking my little Grizzly heart.
- You guys, Jonny Badger has made (3) shots all season. And not one of them has been a 3-pointer.
- I mean, he's missing from all over the court, too. Five feet out, 15 feet out, 25 feet out, at the rim, he's got it covered.
- I tweeted this during the game, but it bears repeating: Vince Carter has no memory when it comes to his sports mentality. If he misses 10 shots in a row, he'll come out and shoot #11 like it's his first all season. It's yet to really pay off in the percentages, but one has the feeling a 20-point outburst is somewhere on the horizon for Carter.
- The Grizzlies didn't wait until the 3rd quarter to find urgency. Several guys got it going, they continued moving the ball well, and they forced 5 turnovers while blocking 3 shots. Memphis seemed to get it under control in the 2nd Q, but this was a tease, an optical illusion. The false sense of security I had going into halftime would evolve into eye-twitching madness just a half hour later.
My halftime highlight featured this exchange with Jalen Rose on Twitter after some unintended phrasing left him saying "his nickname for Tony Allen was the Grindfather." I corrected him while they were at commercial break, and when the halftime show returned he gave his own nickname for TA: Crazy Glue.
This would be the apex of my cheerfulness until the end of the game.
I'm not going to lie to you all. The third quarter made me so incredibly furious that I just stopped taking notes. But here's what I can make out from my Twitter trail:
Did Jon Leuer infect Marc Gasol with his disease!??!!— Chris Faulkner (@FaulknerMemphis) November 8, 2014
Marc wasn't having a good night. I was suggesting that JL infected him with whatever has been making him play like total crap.
Let's feed CLee perhaps.— Chris Faulkner (@FaulknerMemphis) November 8, 2014
Courtney's return to the court has been instrumental in keeping the Grizzlies undefeated. He's scoring from all areas of the court while showing particular accuracy from long-range -- he went 3/3 tonight, and each one was an enormous shot.
Conley's been trying to get that contact on Steven Adams for a while now.— Chris Faulkner (@FaulknerMemphis) November 8, 2014
Steven Adams was proving to be some kind of kryptonite for Marc Gasol, and the Grizzlies began making a concerted effort to try and get him into foul trouble. It never really panned out, but Mike Conley did do a nice job of helping to carry the offense with some aggressive play on offense.
Silly Collison, you're not Marc Gasol.— Chris Faulkner (@FaulknerMemphis) November 8, 2014
Late in the quarter, Nick Collison attempted what appeared to be a move right out of the Gasol playbook. It failed, and I wanted to point it out because it's Nick Collison and that's just what you do as a Grizzlies fan. I will say that it was truthfully a nice impression of how Gasol was playing tonight.
Grrrizzlies fans, it's the 4th quarter! Stand up, yell Marc Ga-SALL and mmmMAKE SOME NOISE!!!— Rick Trotter (@RickTrotter) November 8, 2014
Not mine, obviously, but I had to include it because it's awesome.
The thing that gets me wanting to tear the head off a kitten is when they show Kevin Durant on the sideline.— Chris Faulkner (@FaulknerMemphis) November 8, 2014
It wasn't just knowing that the Thunder were somehow hanging around in this game even though he was sidelined, there's just something about KD experiencing joy during a Grizzlies game that turns me into a horrible person. Hello, my name is Chris, and I have hate/rage problems over Kevin Durant. C'mon ESPN, just show me Westbrook. I don't have to feel guilty for hating him.
Lee and Conley just made the Thunder run about 3.5 miles on that play.— Chris Faulkner (@FaulknerMemphis) November 8, 2014
One of the biggest plays of the night. Lee and Conley yo-yo'ed 3 or 4 Thunder defenders through the paint back and forth at least three times before Conley finished off the spectacle with a dagger 3. Well, it seemed like a dagger at the time, but OKC would go on to hit big shots of their own to keep this close til the very end.
It was around this time that I lost my ability to form words and hold my hands onto a keyboard. The rest of the game had me pacing like a lunatic, trying four separate times to drink from a glass that had been empty for 15 minutes, and sporadically fist pumping so hard that I probably hurt myself enough to get out of having to rake leaves for a few weeks.
It was a bizarre game, but a game that was (essentially) finished off with a signature play from the Grizzlies. With just seconds to play, the Grizzlies held on to a 1 point lead as OKC was inbounding the ball at half court. In a shining moment, the Griz defense sunk in its teeth and forced a 5-second violation to send the ball the other way. A moment enjoyed most by its muse, Tony Allen. It would be half an hour before my hands would stop shaking.
Bad News/Good News
Bad News: Marc Gasol looked absolutely awful -- mind on a different planet bad.
Good News: The Memphis backcourt stepped up for a 2nd consecutive game to neutralize an off night from Marc.
Good News: Despite an overall bad night, Marc managed to snag 9 rebounds!
Bad News: Those 9 rebounds were a team high. OKC won that battle 44-38.
Bad News: Tony Allen attempted two 3-pointers in this game.
Good News: A rogue comet flew by so closely to Earth that it altered its gravitational integrity enough to send one of those 3-point shots into the hoop.
Bad News: The Grizzlies bench played like a combination of crap and invisible crap, shooting 8 of 25 from the field.
Good News: It didn't matter for one more night and the Grizzlies are undefeated.
The Grizzlies are 6-0 by virtue of the talent and will of their starting lineup. We've seen some magnificent performances by every component of that lineup at some point in these first six games, but sooner than later, Memphis will need a spark off the bench to keep this bonfire ablaze.
Photo: Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports