True Grit: Grizzlies Grind Down Thunder; OKC Back Under .500

Saturday, January 31st 2015, 11:12 pm
By: News 9

The last time the Thunder visited Memphis, they took home a 104-84 victory in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. It set up a brilliant Game 7 in Oklahoma City in which the Thunder waved goodbye to the Grizz and marched on to the second round.

What a difference a season makes.

Memphis blasted Oklahoma City on Saturday night, 85-74, and sent the spiraling Thunder back under the .500 mark yet again.

Zach Randolph destroyed everyone in his path. Z-Bo dropped 21 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, and single-handedly matched the scoring of the Thunder's entire front line. Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins combined to play 90 minutes and scored just 21 points. 13 of those came from Ibaka, who also grabbed 10 boards.

“We knew going into this game that it was going to be a physical ball game and it was going to be a defensive game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We held ‘em to 37 percent (shooting) but we gave ‘em 18 offensive rebounds. That's the strength of their team; that's what they do. “

And they did it all night. Marc Gasol added 15 points and 12 rebounds as the Grit-and-Grind Grizzlies simply outworked the Thunder. Memphis outrebounded the Thunder 54-47 and 20-12 on the offensive glass. The Grizz also stole the ball 11 times to OKC's five.

No one for OKC was particularly efficient. Kevin Durant returned from a toe injury but scored just 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting. Russell Westbrook also shot 5-of-16 and finished with 14. Dion Waiters shot a woeful 3-of-14 from the floor and 1-of4 from downtown.

Oklahoma City has now lost four of five, and even if the Thunder (23-24) won all 35 of their remaining games, they would still finish with a worse record than they had last season (59-23).

Brooks might be worried, but if he is, he won't show it.

“As we continue to play and practice and play games our rhythm will come back,” Brooks said. “And we'll play much better.”

They'll need to. The loss drops the Thunder to 4 ½ games back of the Phoenix Suns for the No. 8 spot out West. OKC hosts the terrible Orlando Magic on Monday night in what seems like a must-win game.