The Memphis Grizzlies were an unknown quantity coming in: what with trades, rumors of trades, rumors of rumors of trades, and suddenly the Griz have only eight players coming to Oklahoma City. I looked over the roster, and recognized one name. “At least Mike Conley’s still around,” I thought. And indeed he was. But these weren’t the Grizzlies of old, glacial pace and just-short-of-flagrant fouls: these growlers played with commendable speed and an unexpectedly light touch, and they managed to stay withing grumbling distance of the Thunder through the first half, owning a two-point lead before OKC figured out the Griz’ 2-3 (occasionally 1-2-2) zone and started pouring on the offense. The Thunder dominated the third quarter, 32-19, and Memphis never did quite catch up. Oklahoma City 117, Memphis 95, and so ends the two-game home stand.
Short of personnel they may have been, but these Grizzlies, like their predecessors in seasons past, played hard. They managed to retrieve one more rebound than did the Thunder, and hit a credible 20 of 23 free throws. Forward Jaren Jackson, Jr., all of nineteen years old, pulled in almost a point and a half per year, a team-high 27. Reserve forward Bruno Cabocio led the reserves with 16. And as for Mike Conley, he did come up with 15 points, though his 4-15 shooting was a trifle wan.
Then again, Russell Westbrook was only 5-16, but that didn’t stand in the way of Yet Another Triple Double, 15-13-15, his eighth in a row. Paul George rolled out 27; the scary presence, though, was Jerami Grant, with 20 points (8-11) and an absurd +36 for the night. As usual, Dennis Schröder headed up the bench with 16. And not as usual, we got to see both the two-way players tonight: Deonte Burton and Donte Grantham got some exposure, and got to miss one shot each. (According to the box I used, Grantham wears number 71. Who knew? Everything else says #15.)
Three games before the All-Star break: Saturday at Houston, at home against Portland on Monday, and Thursday at New Orleans. Not a pushover in the lot.