About halfway through the fourth quarter, radio guy Matt Pinto summed up the game in exactly four words: “Grizzlies in Fat City.” He’d pretty much nailed it: the Griz were up about a dozen or so and the Thunder couldn’t get unstuck in whatever offensive quicksand had trapped them. Shortly thereafter, the Thunder went on a brief run to pull within five, but it wasn’t until 1:04 that Russell Westbrook, who’d missed ten treys, saw one slide in to tie the score at 93, and then half a minute later buried a pullup to put OKC up two. The Griz, obligingly, had quit scoring about a minute and a half earlier. Dennis Schröder sank two free throws to stretch the lead to four. Delon Wright sprang to the rim to pull Memphis back to within two; Terrance Ferguson got two freebies, the Griz sent up a hail-Mary trey at the horn, and after four days in the hole, the Thunder emerged with an actual win, 99-95.
This is scary: 33-93 shooting, around 36 percent. (Griz shooting: 35-79, 44 percent.) It didn’t help that the Thunder managed to miss nine free throws out of 33, though Steven Adams missed five of them, and with his 13 points and 22 rebounds, no one is likely to growl at the Kiwi. (The Memphis mirror-image, Jonas Valanciunas, put up a respectable 16-13; Avery Bradley poured in 27 points from the wing.) Westbrook finished with 22; Schröder posted 17-12 for the team’s only other double-double.
And now it’s time to hit the road. First stop is Minnesota, which doesn’t play doormat these days. Does Paul George return? We don’t know yet. But one thing is for sure: life is a lot trickier when PG-13 isn’t around.