Ah, Memphis, where struggling basketball teams go to die — but first, they get tortured to within an inch of their lives. And on this particular night, they did it three points at a time (12 of 17 from three-point distance) or one point at a time (34 of 37 free throws). Tasked with interfering with this fusillade, the Thunder spent much of the game in the wrong place at the wrong time: either they let someone, usually Mario Chalmers, knock down a trey, or they let someone, usually Mario Chalmers, collect a couple of freebies. Still, through three quarters it was fairly close, with OKC up by one before what Judge Radar calls “12 Minutes of Hell.” Memphis ran up an 11-point lead before the Thunder again showed signs of life; OKC was able to pull within three, but no closer than that, and the final was a startling 122-114.
Okay, maybe Zach Randolph isn’t quite as fast as he was in days of yore. Still, Z-Bo collected 10 rebounds and 10 points — and he was only the fifth-leading scorer among the Griz. (The aforementioned Mario Chalmers scored a team-high 29, including four of seven treys.) And you have to figure, any day you give up 122 to the Grizzlies, you’re screwed no matter how many statistical categories you might dominate; the Thunder shot 51 percent, outrebounded the Griz by ten, and didn’t do too badly from distance. No matter. Russell Westbrook had the sort of night that only Russell Westbrook seems to have these days: 40 points, 14 rebounds. Still no matter. Perhaps we can put the blame on Kyle Singler, who started in place of the still-recovering Kevin Durant: in eleven minutes, Singler missed four shots and committed four fouls. And Andre Roberson was ailing; Anthony Morrow started at the two, and hit one shot all night. So maybe — no, no excuses, this is the first time all season the Griz beat someone with a winning record. It will not be the last.
The Pelicans are next, on Wednesday, followed by the Knicks on Friday. So far this year, New Orleans has been unexpectedly terrible; New York, unexpectedly not terrible. At least there will be a home crowd for the Thunder.