Hot Start Propels Thunder To Easy Win Over Short-Handed Grizzlies

Thursday, January 31st 2013, 10:41 pm
By: News 9

All the ingredients were there for an Oklahoma City blowout against the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night.

Memphis had just traded star forward Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors Wedneday, along with Hamed Haddadi and did not have newly acquired Ed Davis, Tayshaun Prince or Austin Daye. That set of circumstances caused the Grizzlies to play just nine players.

On the other side, the Thunder were coming off three solid days of rest after losing to the Lakers Sunday afternoon to cap a six-game road trip. Oklahoma City was fresh, and ready to make a statement after losing to Memphis at home Nov. 14.

All those ingredients came together in the form of an offensive explosion for Oklahoma City, as the Thunder shot 61 percent in the first half en route to a 106-89 victory over Memphis at The Peake.

Oklahoma City started the game by going 9-for-9 from the field—a franchise record and the best start to a game in the NBA this season—and shot 80 percent in the first quarter.

Kevin Durant led all scorers with 27 points while Russell Westbrook chipped with 21, including 11 points in the Thunder's big first quarter. Kevin Martin scored 16 points off the bench for OKC, while Nick Collison added 12 points.

Jerryd Bayless led the Grizzlies with 23 points. Mike Conley scored 17 points and Marc Gasol had 16 points.

Zach Randolph had an abysmal game, going scoreless in the first half on 0-for-9 shooting. He ended the night 4-of-17 from the field for nine points—all in the third quarter—but grabbed 19 rebounds.

The Thunder was only able to hold a 20-14 lead after its blazing start thanks to turnovers and offensive rebounds for Memphis. Oklahoma City turned the ball over eight times and gave up seven offensive rebounds to Memphis in the first quarter.

Oklahoma City began to pull away slightly with a 7-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Martin that made the score 27-16 in favor of OKC and forced Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins to call a timeout.

The Thunder led 32-22 at the end of the first quarter and either scored or turned the ball over on every single offensive possession in the quarter.

After a jumper from Memphis' Darrell Arthur at the beginning of the second quarter, the Thunder ripped off a 19-5 run over the remainder of the quarter to establish a 53-29 lead and blow the game wide open. Five OKC players scored during the run, helping the Thunder go into the locker room with a 58-34 lead.

Despite being down and short-handed, the Grizzlies battled back in the third quarter, helped in no small way by an emotional Russell Westbrook. With 8:53 remaining in the quarter, Westbrook was called for a five-second violation and chastised Thabo Sefolosha for not cutting toward him. During the next time out, Westbrook continued pressing the issue, finally sitting on the end of the bench with assistant coach Maurice Cheeks. After another angry outburst, Westbrook went back in the tunnel on the way to the locker with Cheeks right behind him. Westbrook eventually returned to the bench, but didn't return to the game until the fourth quarter.

With Westbrook sulking on the bench, the Grizzlies rattled off a 10-0 run to cut the OKC lead to 15. After a Durant jumper pushed the lead to 20, the Grizzlies responded with a 15-5 run, fueled by the play of Randolph, to close the gap to 10.

However, Westbrook returned to the game at the start of the fourth quarter and immediately hit a jumper to help Oklahoma City stretch its lead back to 86-69 with 9:32 to play. Memphis would get no closer than 12 the rest of the way.