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Game Recap: Thunder strike down Grizzlies

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Memphis ends a short two game winning streak on the road against the Thunder.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies traveled to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder Thursday night. For some reason the NBA scheduled real games on the day of the trade deadline, so the Grizzlies were short handed as four players were shipped elsewhere throughout the course of the day. With eight active players, the Grizzlies were already undermanned. Compound that with Mike Conley and Justin Holiday being the only players on the roster with more than one season of NBA experience, and this game didn’t look promising.

But as Memphis tends to do (in good and bad ways), the Grizzlies defied reality for the first half. Starting for Memphis was Mike Conley, Julian Washburn, Justin Holiday, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Ivan Rabb, a scrappy group with no experience playing with one another. Memphis would score their first points at 9:35 mark, down 7-2 to start the game. Holiday picked up his second foul at the 8:08 mark in the first quarter, sending him to the bench for the rest of the quarter. That is when the bench, consisting of one 10-day (Bruno Caboclo) and two two-way players (Yuta Watanabe and Jevon Carter), stepped in.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis took the lead with 4:36 led in the opening quarter 17-16, with Yuta Watanabe leading a spark for the young guys. Mike Conley and JJJ had strong first quarters, but the highlight of the first 12 minutes were the final three. To end the quarter every player on the floor for the Grizzlies was a two-way, second year, or 10-day contract player. The rotation of young guys played so well to end the quarter, finishing with the lead 32-27.

Through the end of the first quarter and first two minutes of the second, Memphis held a 12-2 scoring run. You can predict what happened next, the lead slowly evaporated. Paul George caught fire, draining back to back threes to cut the lead down. After coach JB Bickerstaff called timeout at the 8:23 mark in the second quarter down 36-29, OKC would go on a 22-4 scoring run. Led by a barrage of three pointers and a classic Memphis scoring drought, OKC took the lead in just under four minutes. Bickerstaff called another timeout with 4:58 left, and OKC led 42-38.

Yes, Memphis scored just two points. But wait. It gets better.

Following that timeout and a JB Bickerstaff technical foul, Memphis went on their own 11-2 run. In a quarter of strong runs, Memphis had the final laugh. JJJ went nuts to finish the half, scoring 13 points down the stretch of the final minutes and finishing the half with 20 points. OKC got in serious foul trouble in the final four minutes of the first half as well, Jerami Grant picked up his third foul at 4:03, Terrance Ferguson picked up his third with 3:13; Steven Adams went out with his third foul in the first quarter. Mike Conley and Bruno Caboclo contributed 8 points each in the half. Memphis would lead 53-51 after the first half.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Well the third quarter comes as the natural progression of an NBA basketball game, but as you may know, the Grizzlies don’t know that. They rarely show up for the third quarter and that theme continued against OKC. Steven Adams was back in the lineup which he made everyone aware of, creating his own 6-0 run to start the second half. That would be followed up by Russell Westbrook tallying his eighth straight triple double and the OKC offense using the quarter as a practice game. The Thunder started the third quarter on a 16-2 run, the first Bickerstaff timeout coming at 9:25 in the third, down 60-55 already. Ivan Rabb picked up his fourth foul at the 8:36 mark.

There isn’t much to report about the rest of the quarter, Memphis did not score many points and OKC did, that’s the whole story. Memphis closed the quarter on a 10-4 run, but still only finished the quarter with 19 points total. OKC led 83-72 after three quarters.

After a brutal third quarter, the fourth quarter was more of the same. OKC started the final quarter on an 11-0 run, sparked by two Paul George threes. Bickerstaff would call timeout at the 10:08 mark left in the game, OKC led 94-92. That run was quickly followed by a short 10-2 Memphis run, but it would prove to be too little and much too late. Like the third quarter, there is not much to report about the fourth quarter. There were a few highlights that are worth watching from OKC, but nothing very interesting game-wise.

A few positive notes to take away for the Grizzlies, JJJ, Watanabe, Caboclo, and Rabb were all in double figures, led by JJJ’s 27 on an efficient 12-18 from the field. Mike Conley contributed 15 points on a very inefficient 4-15. OKC was led by Paul George with 27 and Russell Westbrook’s triple-double at 15-13-15. The final score was 117-95.

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