This year’s Grizzlies aren’t quite the frightening opponents they used to be: only Mike Conley and Marc Gasol remain from the glory days, and Conley’s out for the season. Still, they’ve stuck to the plan: slow it down and keep watch on the details. “Don’t tell me about ‘shorthanded’,” sniff the Thunder, still without Roberson (rest of the year), Anthony and Westbrook (whenever those ankle sprains heal). OKC put a hurt on the Griz in the first quarter, 35-18, and for the most part, they were swapping buckets for the rest of the way toward the 110-92 final for the first of three games against Memphis. (The second will be Wednesday.)
The new-look Griz are every bit as good as their predecessors from the foul line: they hit 22 of 24 charity tosses. And they’ve lost none of their ability to scrounge for second- and even third-chance shots (21-2 over the Thunder). They even outrebounded OKC by a bunch, 47-38. But they weren’t so successful at the tedious business of making shots: 39 percent, and 6-28 from beyond the arc. Gasol, not surprisingly, had a team-high 18 points; Tyreke Evans, JaMychal Green and Ben McLemore were able to put up double figures. The Thunder gave up only 10 turnovers, an improvement over recent weeks, and Paul George rolled up 33 points because of course he did. Slotting into the starting guard slots were Raymond Felton (expected) and Alex Abrines (not expected). They had 30 points between them, 18 on three-pointers; OKC actually tied the franchise record for treys with 16 out of 37. Now if they could just remember how to make a free throw; even without Roberson, they missed 14 of 40.
The Cavaliers arrive Tuesday, with the newer-look Cleveland squad ready to duke it out once more. Then it’s off to Memphis to see these Grizzlies again, after which the All-Star break looms. Afterwards, it’s back to the Left Coast to see the Kings and the Warriors.