The first clue that this wouldn’t be a classic Grizzlies/Thunder grindout came before the game, when Memphis point guard Mike Conley was scratched: something about his Achilles’ tendon. Dave Joerger, ever-resourceful, moved Courtney Lee from shooting guard to the point, and installed Tony Allen at the two. At about the same time came the second clue: Kevin Durant would be back after missing only a single game with Peripheral Toe Jam. (I’m not up on all this injury lingo.) The Griz were able to set their preferred pace, which may be characterized as “slow and deliberate,” for about half the first quarter, whereupon the Thunder started trying to speed things up. It was 25-16 after the first, 56-36 at the half, and Courtney Lee was lost in the third. With the Thunder up 18 at the end of the third, Billy Donovan decided to let the reserves fight the rest of the way; he recanted six minutes later as the Griz started to make some headway. Three minutes later, order was restored, and the Grizzlies were ultimately dispatched, 112-94.
It wasn’t that the Griz were terrible, exactly, but the matchups didn’t match so well, and, well, they have the likes of Vince Carter, who fought in the French and Indian War, a good soldier gradually fading away. Still, sixth man Mario Chalmers, who always plays OKC tough, did it again, coming up with 23 points, though he wound up playing over 38 minutes. Meanwhile, “Is Kevin really back?” Yes, he was; KD had a slowish start, but he wound up with 26 points and a startling 17 rebounds, one short of a career high. Russell Westbrook added 20, because that’s what he does, and the bench came up with 50 points, something they’d love to do more often.
This is the last meeting with Memphis this season. (Playoffs? Who can tell at this point?) OKC wins that series 2-1. The Thunder will be on the road Friday through Tuesday, taking on the Lakers, the Trail Blazers, and the Timberwolves; Wednesday they’re back at the ‘Peake, where the Mavs will be waiting.