WHO: Oklahoma City Thunder (42-25, 5th seed, .5 game back from Utah Jazz for 4th in Western Conference @ Memphis Grizzlies (32-37, .5 game ahead of Portland Trail Blazers for 8th seed in Western Conference
WHEN: 3:00 PM CT
WHERE: HP Field House at the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: NBA TV/Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
OKLAHOMA CITY: Terrance Ferguson (Out, leg), Mike Muscala (out, concussion), Isaiah Roby (Out, foot), Dennis Schroder (Out, personal),
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Tyus Jones (Out, knee), Justise Winslow (Out, hip)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
OKLAHOMA CITY: Chris Paul, Luguentz Dort, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas
The bubble experience has continued to be a miserable one for the Memphis Grizzlies. The team has faltered to an 0-4 start in the bubble and has seen it’s 3.5 game lead in the standings cut down to just .5 game heading into tonight’s matchup against the OKC Thunder. After a mostly healthy mini-camp, the Grizzlies were hit with the injury bug with both Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson Jr. going out with season ending injuries. Tyus Jones also suffered a knee injury that has kept him out of the first 4 bubble games. Still, the Grizzlies have a solid chance of making the play in tournament as the 8th seed according to Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian (Tweet sent prior to Thursday’s games).
If my math is correct, even if the Grizzlies go 0-8 in the bubble, the other teams would need to do this in the rest of their games to pass them:— Chris Herrington (@ChrisHerrington) August 6, 2020
Regardless of the odds, it would be much more beneficial for the Grizzlies to pick up a couple of wins to help maintain their slim lead in the standings. A win this afternoon won’t come easy though, as the Thunder have been playing quite well in the bubble going 2-1 so far with a win over the Los Angeles Lakers and the lone loss being an OT loss against the Denver Nuggets.
A win is certainly possible though against the Thunder if the Grizzlies can improve upon these few things.
War on the Wings
The Thunder have found a ton of success this season thanks in large part to the surprising performances of Lu Dort and the rapid growth of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Thunder have also gotten solid production off the bench from Darius Bazley and Adbel Nader. The Grizzlies have gotten decent production from the gluttony of wings in Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, De’Anthony Melton, and Grayson Allen among others, but Allen has been the only consistent presence in Orlando. If the Grizzlies can get a bounceback performance from some of their wings to combat the Dort/SGA duo it will go a long way towards them grabbing their first win of the season.
Where’s the defense?
The Grizzlies defense has been subpar, to put it lightly, in Orlando. They’ve allowed over 100 points per game and have given up a ton of open shots. The Grizzlies found success early against the Jazz by forcing turnovers and converting them into easy fast break opportunities. The defense fell apart in the 2nd quarter allowing the Jazz to go on a 22-1 run to retake the lead. Late in the game against the Jazz, the Grizz overhelped on drives by Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell which set up easy, open 3’s by Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neal. If the Grizzlies overhelp on drives by CP3 and company, the Thunder are going to torch the Grizz from beyond the arc. Grizzlies defenders will need to stick with the Thunder 3-point shooters and rotate appropriately instead of everyone going after the ball.
The Grizzlies played arguably their best game of the bubble against the Jazz on Wednesday and look to carry that momentum into tonight’s matchup against the Thunder. A Grizzlies win won’t come easy against a solid Thunder team, though the absence of Dennis Schroder should certainly help the Grizz.
I expect the Grizzlies to continue their improved play against the Thunder but I suspect they’ll ultimately come up short in pursuit of their first win in Orlando.
Thunder 115 Grizzlies 108