The Memphis Grizzlies faced the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night. Memphis was just 1-7 in the last eight, a big reason for that being the absence of Tyreke Evans from the last five contests. He was being benched to protect his trade value, which wasn’t used in the end anyway. Evans got the start Sunday night, giving the Grizzlies another weapon on offense. Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony both were not available, leaving more scoring opportunities for the resurgent Paul George.
After starting the game with a 6-0 run, the 1st quarter finished with the Thunder outscoring Memphis 35-18. Tyreke Evans looked like he hadn’t played in five games, looking quite rusty. For what its worth, Mario Chalmers entered the game at the 7:15 mark, Memphis was leading 8-7. Ben McLemore entered soon after. . Ten players total saw minutes for the Grizzlies, and with six power forwards on this roster, match-ups like Jarell Martin versus Paul George were exposed.
George was sizzling, tallying 16 points in the quarter, the only player in the game with double figures. A strong start by JaMychal Green was a welcome sight, but no other Grizzly looked engaged on either end through one quarter.
The second quarter was not much better, as you could’ve guessed. I’ll give you a recap of the first two and a half minutes and you can basically use this small portion to sum up the whole season. The Grizzlies first team foul came just 13 seconds into the quarter. Then another in just 44 seconds. The next in 56 seconds. The last foul to give was at the 90 second mark. And with 9:30 left in the second half, OKC was shooting bonus free throws.
The offense continued to struggle, but the defense was even worse. Paul George was having his way, he was 7-12 for 22 points in the first half. The Thunder shot a gaudy 59% from the field and 12-17 from three (70%). On top of that, they shot free throws virtually the entire quarter. Memphis simply fouled too much - it wasn’t an officiating problem, it was a players problem. Only one player of eight players that played more than eight minutes for Memphis in the first half had less than two fouls (McLemore), and four had three fouls each.
Gasol ended the half on 5-9 shooting for 11 points, and JaMychal Green added 10 points and seven boards. The score was 74-54 in favor of OKC at half.
After being doing 20 at halftime, the Grizzlies cut into the lead a little bit, finishing the third quarter down 95-80. Paul George finally cooled down, bringing his night to a somewhat inefficient 9-22 for 30 points heading into the fourth quarter. For a change, Memphis actually reached the bonus before OKC in the third. Four Grizzlies tallied their fourth fouls in the quarter, but overall the defensive effort was better. Rebounding was keeping the Grizzlies relevant, keeping the Thunder scoreless from second chance opportunities. Three point shooting continued to be downright embarrassing, just 5-22 through three quarters for Memphis.
The fourth quarter started with an offensive foul by Chalmers, picking up his fifth foul just 22 seconds into the final frame. The offense continued to struggle, especially Evans, who looked out of sync. The first recorded turnover forced by Memphis after the first quarter came with about 10:00 left in the fourth quarter. The Thunder ended up turning the ball over six times in the final quarter.
Myke Henry provided the first points of the quarter for the Grizzlies 6:29 left in the game, Henry threw down a nasty and-1, two-handed jam. He would later throw down another transition one-handed jam. A peculiar story line of the fourth quarter was OKC’s coach Billy Donovan’s decision to put Paul George back in the game, up 24 points, with 5:24 left. Dillon Brooks would foul out with 2:17 left, finishing with six points and five turnovers. This would end his streak of eight straight games in double figures.
After the last three games under 90 points a game, the Grizzles finally get over the 90 point hump. The Thunder won 110-92, Paul George leading all scorers with 33 on 10-24 shooting. Gasol led Memphis with 18, JaMychal Green contributing a double double of 14 and 12 rebounds. Memphis was 32-82 for 39% from the field, 6-28 from three (21.4%). This loss marked eight straight road losses and eight of nine overall.
Memphis with face OKC again at home on Wednesday, February 14th. This will be the Grizzlies final game before the All-Star break.