Memphis Snuffs Out Thunder Offense
MEMPHIS, Tennessee - For the past several weeks, it's been Oklahoma City's defense that's been hard to watch and has prevented the Thunder from locking down the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Friday night in Memphis, it was the Thunder's offense that struggled, as the Grizzlies put the Thunder's playoff chances in even more jeopardy with a 100-92 win.
The Thunder are now just a game up on New Orleans for the eighth seed, with the Pelicans playing at Sacramento late Friday night. Oklahoma City could enter its next game against Houston on Sunday tied with the Pelicans in the standings.
Playing the Grizzlies is always a grind, particularly in Memphis. The Thunder never seems to be able to impose its style of play on the Grizzlies, a testament to Memphis' ability to dictate the pace of the game. Friday, the Memphis defense prevented OKC from getting open looks or establishing a rhythm on offense.
The Thunder shot 41 percent for the game, just a shade under that with eight turnovers in the second half. Oklahoma City also went just 4-of-17 from 3-point range (1-of-11 for Anthony Morrow, Russell Westbrook and Dion Waiters) and missed 10 free throws.
Westbrook was 5-of-20 from the field, Waiters was 3-of-11 and Morrow was 5-of-14. Enes Kanter had 24 points and 17 rebounds and Kyle Singler went 3-of-4 from 3-point range and had 13 points, his best game since he got to Oklahoma City. Those were the only two for the Thunder who had mentionable games on the offensive end.
Kanter had X-rays after the game on his neck because of a hard foul in the second half. They came back negative.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies had a lot of success on offense, as all five starters scored in double figures, led by Jeff Green's 22 points. Nick Calathes added 10 points off the bench and Kosta Koufos added 11 rebounds.
The Thunder's defense still wasn't great—Memphis had 60 points in the paint—but it wasn't the reason they lost on Friday. Simply put, the ball didn't go in the basket enough for the Thunder to leave town with a win. Westbrook in particular was bad after a 12-point first quarter. He hit just a single field goal the rest of the game, as Memphis threw an interesting defensive wrinkle at him in the form of Green. Green's length clearly bothered Westbrook, and the Grizzlies did a great job of making sure Green wasn't guarding Westbrook on an island.
Oklahoma City can't afford to have multiple guys have a bad night offensively, especially since it's not likely to win games on the defensive end.
The Thunder has an easier close to the season than the Pelicans, but with the race is too close for comfort, there won't be any relaxing the rest of the way. Even if the Thunder do make the playoffs, Golden State will be waiting on the other side.
Friday underscored the idea that Oklahoma City, while very talented, has very little margin for error, not only over the next week and a half, but night-to-night as well.