Memphis' pile-driving 85-74 victory on Saturday night was our latest proof.
Zach Randolph scored 21 points and snatched 18 rebounds (his twelfth straight double-double), and Marc Gasol went 15 and 12, while also handing out a team-best five assists. Tony Allen and Jeff Green (he can, like, kind of guard KD!) joined forces and held Kevin Durant to 15 points on 5-16 shooting. The Grizzlies shot only 37% from the field (and made only three 3-pointers), but grabbed 20 offensive rebounds. Memphis suppressed OKC's shooting even further - the Thunder shot just 34%, and turned it over 17 times.
But these numbers are ultimately inconsequential. They don't tell the whole story. They can't tell the whole story. Even the teams' lopsided records (Memphis now leads OKC by twelve games) can't fully be used as evidence to support the claim "Memphis is better than Oklahoma City".
The Grizzlies are better than the Thunder because you can just tell.
Oklahoma City usually Trojan-horses a sense of dread into FedEx Forum, whisps of impending doom that trail from Durant and Westbrook like capes. There was none of that on Saturday night. No four-point plays, no imminent Durant or Westbrook takeovers, no momentum-shifting Collison charges. The Grizzlies controlled the entire game.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that the Grizzlies' rise over the Thunder is entirely (or even remotely) juju-based. Scott Brooks and OKC's schemes are, shall we say, problematic, while Dave Joerger has assembled the finest-oiled machine of the Memphis era. The Grizzlies' entire roster has risen like a high tide; the Thunder have two superstars and a bunch of dudes floundering in the water.
The Grizzlies are not better than the Thunder because of some mystical absence of dread (or because of this unbearably weird thing that Kevin Lipe tweeted about last week)--the continued maturation of the Grizzlies' roster deserves more credit than that--but that confident, joyous, doom-less feeling in the stomachs of Grizzdom was the final nugget of proof we needed to confirm what has become gleefully clear: Memphis is better than Oklahoma City.
(Or, you know, it could've been the belts.)
Some quick-hitting notes from the game:
- Jon Leuer had himself a little swat in the first quarter, and "little swat" is probably what we should call it. Like, he might have used a fly-swatter, such was the timidity of the block.
- Vince Carter, visiting with Brevin Knight and Pete Pranica, on live television: "I feel great. I'm just kidding. Haha."
- Tony Allen's second quarter behind-the-head lay-in was a crowd-pleaser in my living room.
- HOLY SWEET GOD JEFF GREEN
- WHOAH-EM-GEE JEFF GREEN
- JEFF GREEN KILLED ALL THE THUNDER PLAYERS
- Okay so that Jeff Green dunk. Green joined Tayshaun Prince in the Grizzlian ritual of ceremonially slaughtering all Oklahoma City players.
- Zach Randolph, just continually getting rebounds.
- If you are on a Valentine's date (coming up!) with a Grizz fan, just play this Conley-to-Marc-to ZBo Vine for three hours and you will find love, Grizzly Bear Blues guarantees it.
- Just a facial hair thought here, but the full goatee is a much nicer look for Kendrick Perkins.
- Pete Pranica getting Super Bowl-ready by calling Randolph "beast mode" a handful of times.
- Dion Waiters is un-good at basketball.
- Nick Calathes with some nice run, including a two-deflection defensive possession which led to a "SHOT CLOCK: VIOLATED."
- Scott Brooks popping timeouts like Tylenol.