Halfway through the second quarter, you could see the grindhouse door: it was Oklahoma City 33, Memphis 32. Then suddenly the Thunder took off, landing in the locker room at halftime with a 51-36 lead. The Griz were not having any of that, and gradually eroded that lead to as little as three. With the Thunder up 78-75, it was Kevin Durant for two, Thabo Sefolosha for three and then Durant for two more for a ten-point lead, but a subsequent Zach Randolph layup was the last Memphis score, and the Thunder goes up 2-1 in the season series with an 86-77 win.
Durant’s game-high 31 was nice, of course, and Serge Ibaka put together a double-double in the first half, finishing with 21 points and 12 rebounds, but perhaps the pivotal factor was defense by Steven Adams, who blocked four shots in 23 minutes and basically dared anyone to get around him. (Adams also drew five fouls, but by no means is that news.) And if the bench didn’t score a lot — only 14 points in all — well, this wasn’t a big offensive display; the Thunder went 4-18 from beyond the arc, which is terrible, but the Grizzlies were 2-16.
How much Memphis missed Mike Conley is hard to tell. Rookie Nick Calathes started at the point, and if he’s not the offensive machine Conley is, he performed respectably well, with eight points and four steals. Randolph and Marc Gasol each scored 13 to lead the Griz, with Mike Miller and Courtney Lee kicking in 11 apiece, but what Memphis did best was force turnovers: OKC handed it over 16 times, the Griz only 11.
And once again, we get to defend Kendrick Perkins, who scored one point — a free throw (out of two) in the waning moments — but who contributed eight boards, two blocks and even a steal. With the Griz not hitting the long ball, all Perk had to do was keep them out of the paint, and you know he enjoyed it.
Fifty games done, 39 won. Not that anyone’s going to mention that this is on pace for a 64-win season. And by March, maybe Russell Westbrook — remember him? — will be back.