WHERE: Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee)
OKLAHOMA CITY: Darius Bazley (Out, shoulder), Josh Hall (Out, knee), George Hill (Out, thumb), Meyers Leonard (NWT)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
OKLAHOMA CITY: Theo Maledon, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Aleksej Pokusevski, Isaiah Roby, Moses Brown
The Grizzlies will kick off a 4-game road trip with a visit to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder in OKC for the second time in ten days. It was a disappointing game by the Grizzlies the last time in OKC, as they fell to the Thunder 128-122 while looking disinterested most of the game.
The Thunder have been one of the stranger teams in the NBA this season. They were supposed to be bottom-feeders this season, competing for the top pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Instead, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has carried the Thunder to be fringe play-in tournament contenders as they trail the Grizzlies by just 2.5 games on the 10th seed in the standings.
What makes it even more impressive by SGA is the fact that the OKC front office hasn’t done much to really help him out. George Hill has been out for awhile with a hand injury, Al Horford gets seemingly 4 days of rest for every game played, and recently some of their younger guys like Lu Dort have been held out for minor injuries. Despite all this, the Thunder keep chugging along and continue to not be an easy win for teams.
Here’s what the Grizzlies need to do to leave OKC with a win tonight.
Defend the Arc
The Grizzlies lost the first game in OKC largely due to their inability to guard the 3-point line against the Thunder, particularly in the 4th quarter. The Thunder shot 7-10 from distance in the 4th that game, which allowed them to come back from down 12 to steal the victory from Memphis. The Grizzlies are in the bottom third of the NBA when it comes to defending the triple, allowing opponents to shoot 37.3% from beyond the arc on the season. That number isn’t great, but it sometimes feels much worse due to the Grizzlies shooting just 34.8% from distance this season. The Grizzlies often get outscored from beyond the arc in games this season, but make up for it with efficient shots in the paint. The last matchup against OKC however proved what can happen when you let a team get too hot from deep. The Grizzlies will need to do a better job of sticking with their man and not allowing so many open shots from deep to defeat the Thunder.
Keep the foot on the gas
In the last matchup, the Grizzlies played like a team that thought they could win just by showing up. They held a lead most of the game, but let the Thunder hang around before they eventually dominated the 4th to take the victory. This time around, the Grizzlies need to be better prepared and ready for the Thunder to fight despite their roster not having any threats outside of SGA & Dort. Moses Brown has been solid in the post, Aleksej Pokusevski has been highly entertaining and went off for a career-high 23 points to go along with 10 rebounds in the last matchup. The bench unit of Darius Miller, Kenrich Williams, Mike Muscala and Isaiah Roby is surprisingly solid. The Grizzlies will need to do their homework on this pesky Thunder squad and not let up no matter the lead. Giving a young team confidence, like they did in the 4th quarter of the last matchup, wouldn’t bode well for the Grizzlies.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Grizzlies hit the road after a 3-1 homestead that includes a win over a hot Heat team and a solid Celtics team (sans Jayson Tatum). They’re as healthy as they’ve been all season and Ja Morant has been playing great, despite his efficiency dropping a bit. The Thunder, as pesky as can be, just aren’t that great of a team unless they’re hitting from distance. I expect them to put up a fight, but the Grizzlies will have learned their lesson from the last trip against OKC and will do enough to pull away late to start the road trip off with a win.
Memphis 116, Oklahoma City 105