As everyone remembers, the Memphis Grizzlies excel at demolishing the Westbrook-less Thunder. And these Grizzlies are better than the last batch of Grizzlies — Courtney Lee is more or less assimilated, and Marc Gasol is back in action — so I didn’t expect a repeat of the 116-100 win from December. The issue, as always with Memphis, is which team enforces its preferred pace; the Grizzlies prevailed in the first and third quarters, the Thunder in the second, and the teams fought on more or less equal terms in the fourth — although Memphis went into the final twelve minutes with a five-point lead, and the Griz were still up four with ten seconds left. Serge Ibaka delivered a trey, but Lee knocked down two free throws in the last second to give Memphis a 90-87 win.
This is one game where the plus/minus numbers are scary. All the Thunder reserves were plus; all the starters were minus. The bench, as usual, did yeoman work, contributing 20 points to the cause; the Memphis bench managed only 10. But Ibaka got into double figures only after that last-minute trey, which gave him 11; Reggie Jackson had 17, and might have had more had he not been bedeviled with personal fouls. Yeah, Kevin Durant had 37, but you have to figure Kevin Durant would have 37 against the Justice League of America.
If they were watching Gasol’s minutes, they apparently weren’t paranoid about it; the big guy put in 24 minutes and scored 12. Lee led the Griz with 24; Zach Randolph was right behind with 23, and the perennially-scary Mike Conley dropped in 19. Memphis is now within one game of .500, and if they’re healthy — which means, basically, if Tony Allen gets better — they may be in this playoff hunt after all.
As will the Thunder, though now they’re 28-10, and the next two will be tricky: at Houston on Thursday, and against Golden State back at the ‘Peake on Friday. Either, or both, are capable of inflicting further damage on the wounded Thunder.