Last night, the Grizzlies lost to the 12-14 Oklahoma City Thunder 126-122 after being up by as many as 24 points. The story was a cautionary tale of the importance of playing with urgency for all 48 minutes.
After starting the game exchanging misses, Jonas Valanciunas scored the first points under the basket. Dillon Brooks started off aggressively on the offensive end, earning himself two early trips to free-throw line, courtesy of two fouls from Terrance Ferguson.
Valanciunas set the tone early that he was not afraid to go toe-to-toe with Steven Adams, but Adams was the largest offensive threat early in the quarter for the Thunder after earning a quick 7-points.
After committing two early fouls, Jaren Jackson Jr. had to sit with 4:50 remaining in the quarter, and the Thunder quickly shrank the lead to 1, prompting a Grizzlies’ timeout.
The Grizzlies committed a turnover after the timeout committing a shot clock violation, but Clarke delivered on the very next possession with a quick, driving bucket and continued to make aggressive drives late in the quarter, scoring 9.
After trading buckets and fouls with the Thunder, the Grizzlies ended the first quarter leading the Thunder 32-27.
The second quarter started off slowly until Ja Morant landed a triple at the 10:30 mark. Dillon Brooks followed with his own deep three, but Schroder answered with his own three, spurring a Thunder offensive run.
When it appeared the Thunder might capture momentum, Ja Morant scored another three to extend the lead to 10, with Dillon Brooks also scoring a three-pointer on the very next possession.
Midway through the second quarter, Ja Morant brought crucial offensive energy, scoring both with ease and style and extending the Grizzlies’ lead to 15. Throughout the first half, the Thunder attempted to generate momentum off of lobs and Gallinari’s points. Poised, the Grizzlies would usually score on the next possession, refusing to allow any Thunder run to endure too long.
Bench players like Solomon Hill played a key role in maintaining the Grizzlies’ lead by scoring two late second-quarter threes. At the half, the Grizzlies led by 9, shooting 50% from three and 53% from the field.
Ja Morant started the third quarter with energy, getting fouled on a made lay-up. Quick points from both Morant and Brooks extend the lead to 16 and force an early Thunder timeout.
A three at 9:25 by Valanciunas extended the lead to 19, prompting more offensive intervention from the veteran, Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Despite the fact that Jaren had several key offensive plays, his fourth foul sent Gallinari to the free-throw line to shoot three and sent himself to the bench.
At the 5-minute mark of the third and after a timeout, Gallinari drained a three, but Valanciunas’ patience under the goal for two possessions in a row gave the Grizzlies a quick offensive jolt, but Memphis called a timeout to thwart an opportunity of a Thunder run after Schroder hit a jumper and shrank the Grizzlies lead to 17.
The Thunder scored 18 points late in the third to further reduce the lead to 13, and the Grizzlies did not have an answer for Dennis Schroder, who ended the quarter with 21 points. A horrific final few possessions for the Grizzlies led to a quick score for the Thunder, allowing them to claw back to within 7 points of the Grizzlies.
The Thunder rode the momentum into the start of the final quarter. Jaren Jackson Jr. earned his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter, sending him back to the bench. When Schroder made two foul shots after a Dillon Brooks’ foul, the lead was only 3 for the Grizzlies and all the momentum rested with Oklahoma City.
After a traveling call against Valanciunas, the Thunder took their first lead of the game with 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter. A Morant assist to Clarke around the 7-minute mark gave the Grizzlies the lead back, and the Thunder traded baskets for the next few possessions.
The Grizzlies lost a few opportunities to cushion a lead with poorly timed turnovers on sloppy passes and poor ball management. Brandon Clarke scored on a fortunate rebound after Morant missed two crucial free throws. Schroder turned the ball over on the next possession giving the Grizzlies an opportunity to tie the game.
The Grizzlies could not capitalize on the possession and were forced to foul Schroder, who promptly made his free throws and made the game a two-possession game with only 13.6 seconds left. The Grizzlies made a quick bucket, but repeated a mandatory foul on Schroder, who sealed the victory for the Thunder.