Grizzlies Handle Thunder 107-97

THUNDER REACTION

GAME 9 vs. Memphis Grizzlies:  L (107-97)

The Grizzlies became the first team to hang 100 points on the Thunder while handing them their third loss of the season Wednesday at the Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City.

 

1st QUARTER GAME NOTES

The Thunder looked like they were in cruise control once again after the first quarter. They jumped out to a 10-point lead with Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha droppin eight apiece in the first 12 minutes. Memphis got off to a horrible start offensively and shot 32% to start the game including 2-9 from Tony Allen and Mark Gasol.

 

2nd QUARTER GAME NOTES

Memphis turned the game around in the second period, outscoring the Thunder 36-15. The difference ended up coming down to bench play. The Grizzlies’ bench outscored Oklahoma City’s 18-6 in the second period while Quincy Pondexter knocked down three three’s. Jarryd Bayless and Wayne Ellington combined for seven points as well.

 

3rd QUARTER GAME NOTES

OKC did its best to climb back into it after the half; however, Memphis continued to play well offensively. Rudy Gay scored nine of his 18 second half-points in the third quarter and Zach Randolph got going with eight. OKC shot over 56% from the field, but couldn’t stop anybody defensively. Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka combined to hit every shot for OKC in the third period.

 

4th QUARTER GAME NOTES

Once again the Thunder played well in the fourth period, but once again the Grizzlies played well also and held off OKC to earn their sixth victory of the year. Rudy Gay caught fire in the third and continued his hot shooting in the fourth. He scored nine points and scored on three straight possessions with Durant in his face. Bayless turned in nine points in the fourth as well with Randolph and Gasol combining for four.

 

SCOTT BROOKS ON: What went wrong in the 2nd quarter.

“Ellington came in and hit three tough shots and they picked the intensity up. We gave them a lot of looks around the basket, but 21 points on us, I don’t think that will happen again all season.”

 

SCOTT BROOKS ON: Kevin Martin’s first game in single digits.

“It’s something that we definitely need to look at because we need his offense. For whatever reason, four shots is not good enough. It was a combination of the team, myself and Kevin (Marin). I didn’t do a good job and he didn’t do a good job, but we will figure that out.”

 

 

MY RANDOM NOTES

 

  • This was a very physical and intense game. It had a playoff feel to it and you could tell the players felt the same way when Randolph and Kendrick Perkins got ejected in the fourth quarter. I thought the Clippers/Grizzlies rivalry was brewing, but the Thunder/Grizzlies is boiling as well.

 

  • When Westbrook gets off to a slow start, he usually has a terrible offensive game. Not tonight. He had his worst shooting game of the season, but had his best facilitating game of the season (13 assists). He always finds a way to make you shake your head, but this is a growing step. He’s still so young and has a so much to learn. Sometimes it’s nice to see the learning process in action.

 

  • Kevin Martin only took four shots and OKC lost. Something tells me that the team needs him to take control more or they won’t win very many games. He had a tough time against Memphis’ strong defense and sort of zoned out. I hope this isn’t a sign of what’s to come for Martin against good defensive teams.

 

  • The Grizzlies’ bench could be the best in the league. Quincy Pondexter, Jerryd Bayless and Wayne Ellington make up a solid core for their second team. Memphis scares me if I’m a Thunder fan. They have size, the can score from anywhere on the court and they dominate defensively. Could Memphis eliminate OKC if they meet in the playoffs? I think they can.

 

  • I’ve heard some other guys talking about the crowds OKC has had this season. They’ve said the noise level hasn’t come close to what it was last year and after tonight, I agree. It’s almost as if the fans are bored with the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers and others. If it’s not the Heat or Lakers, it’s going to be an average crowd. Let’s all hope that mentality doesn’t catch on.

 

PLAYERS OF THE NIGHT

-Kevin Durant: 34 Points / 10 Rebounds / 5 Assists

-Russell Westbrook: 17 Points / 13 Assists / 6 Rebounds

-Serge Ibaka: 17 Points / 8 Rebounds / 4 Blocks

 

-Rudy Gay: 28 Points / 6 Rebounds / 5 Assists (POG)

-Zach Randolph: 20 Points / 11 Rebounds / 2 Steals

-Marc Gasol: 14 Points / 6 Rebounds / 2 Blocks

 

NEXT GAME: Nov. 16 at New Orleans (3-3)

Grizzlies: Requiem For A Season

It really wasn’t supposed to end this way. This early.

I know how strange that sounds. I mean, we’re talking about the Memphis Grizzlies, the team that waywardly wandered away from Vancouver and seemed as out of place in the NBA as a Grizzly bear in the city of Memphis , but this season was supposed to be different.
Yet here we are – mere weeks removed from the “Western Dark Horse” and “Think About How Dangerous They’ll be With Rudy Gay” talk – and the Grizz are cleaning out their lockers prematurely, again, with plenty of question marks and a 27-point cumulus cloud hanging over their offseason.

Where did it all go wrong? Unfortunately for Memphis’ intensely passionate fans, there’s no obvious scapegoat; no clear target for index fingers, other than the one no team can avoid: fate.

It was obvious that the Grizz were going to have to make some adjustments in welcoming back a dynamic talent like Rudy Gay back to a system that propelled them past the Spurs and to within a game of the Western Conference Finals last spring. But the full-on identity crisis Memphis was set up for when Darrell Arthur, and then worse yet Zach Randolph, went down for large stretches, would ultimately condemn their season.

Like any self-respecting, competitive team, they didn’t roll over; they adjusted, adapted, but hardly evolved. Despite Marreese Speights’ solid efforts to fill the rebounding and scoring voids left in the frontcourt, the team was thinner, weaker; forced to stray from the post-oriented offense and punishing transition game that defined their success.

They were winning games; staying above water for Randolph’s return, but they were also getting comfortable outside their own skin. Grizzlies in sheep’s clothing. Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo were scoring most of their points; Marc Gasol was shouldering more of a load on the glass, facing more attention on defense than he ever had, and fighting off even more bodies for rebounds (and still made the All-Star team); Mike Conley got more comfortable looking for his shot than looking for a man on the block; and the vaunted energy of their bench looked suddenly languid.

In what was already a season of many adjustments for every NBA player and team, the Grizzlies had to re-create themselves yet again when Randolph returned – this time to share the scoring load with Gay – just in time for the playoffs.

That the postseason began with a completely anomalous, unlikely, historic, and utterly soul-crushing collapse (one that was cued by Chris Paul forcing Vinny Del Negro to put him back in the game during the 4th  quarter, to be fuelled by series of three-point bombs from Nick Young and gritty hustle from Reggie Evans, two noted playoff assassins) didn’t help matters.

Starting a series with such an epic swing of momentum surely took the wind out of their lungs, but the Grizzlies weren’t ever truly out of it, only they waited until their backs were against the wall, down 3-1, to move their attack closer to the hoop and truly abuse their edge. They managed to force Game 7, but couldn’t close the deal; it wasn’t too little, just too late.

The obvious dilemma going forward will be Rudy Gay’s role and presence on this team. As recently as 18 months ago, he was given a generous contract and pegged as their franchise guy; there’s no denying Gay’s talent. You also can’t deny this truth; the Grizzlies – with largely the same lineup – went a fair bit deeper in the playoffs, against tougher competition, without him last year. And in the games that saved Memphis’ season, Gasol and Randolph carried the bulk of the load.

Logic would certainly point to moving Gay; he’s versatile, he’s athletic, he performed well last season and probably hasn’t hit his cieling yet; but he’s like Memphis used to seem in the NBA: just out of place. His trade value might never be higher again, there’s a ton of money tied up in him, and when you consider what he could bring back: a more functional upgrade at the point, bench scoring that isn’t OJ Mayo (who the Grizz seemingly can’t wait to get rid of), a legit post presence to shore Randolph and Gasol (hell, bring Mayo/Conley into the fold and Chris Wallace could probably get all of the above) it’s hard to ignore.

It would be a dramatic move, but “dramatic” could also describe the 27-point meltdown that arguably could’ve cost Memphis a trip to the Second Round. To quote a sage old man (Jaffar from Aladdin, don’t sleep): “Desperate time calls for desperate measures”. The Thunder aren’t getting much older anytime soon.

So the offseason looms, with much at stake. The return of Darrell Arthur will only help bolster Memphis’ questionable bench and restore the swagger that once took the NBA by storm, but if the Grizzlies want to stop swimming upstream, he shouldn’t be the only thing to change about this roster. Maybe trading Rudy Gay isn’t the way the franchise wants to go; I called Wallace crazy when he gave Pau Gasol away, but that seemed to work out, so who knows what he has up his sleeve.

One thing’s for sure: After a season of adjustments that moved them backwards, it’s time to adjust again, and hopefully continue to move forward.

Clippers Playing With Mental Toughness, Grit

The Los Angeles Clippers rose to prominence this year due to a flashy style of play which earned them the team the nickname Lob City. With Chris Paul throwing alley-oops to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the team was constantly being featured on highlights reels and endeared themselves to fans.

That style of play, while flashy and exciting, isn’t one that normally allows a team to win a playoff series. With the Clippers playing the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, it was expected that injuries, inexperience and lack of toughness would result in a quick exit from the playoffs.

Los Angeles appeared to be in over their heads in Game 1 until they orchestrated one of the classic rallies in the history of the NBA playoffs. With only eight minutes left in the game, the Clippers rallied from a 27-point deficit to steal a win from the claws of the Grizzlies.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact Paul had to beg his head coach, Vinny Del Negro, to stay in the game. The all-star point guard and MVP candidate showed a ton of intestinal fortitude by wanting to fight in a fourth quarter that many people had stopped watching.

“Unfortunately, that’s how we play,” Paul lamented to the media. “We get killed in the first three quarters and in the fourth quarter we like to try to stand up for ourselves, and we found a way to win tonight.”

Memphis was able to recover to win Game 2 at home and appeared ready to steal home-court advantage back in Game 3. However, once again the Clippers showed a lot of resiliency and toughness as the Grizzlies offence went nearly 10 minutes with only one field goal to start the fourth quarter.

The Grizzlies had gone on a 25-14 run to take a 71-64 lead late in the third quarter when then the Grizzlies fell into a nasty shooting funk that extended into the fourth quarter. All-Star big man Marc Gasol made a field goal with 7:10 left to push the Grizzlies lead to 77-71, but that was Memphis’ last basket until the first of Gay’s two three-pointers in the closing seconds that added a bit of drama to the end of the game.

“We shut down and only scored 15 points in the fourth quarter,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins vented. “We took too many quick shots and gave up second-chance points. We gave them the back door and Blake (Griffin) took advantage of it.”

If you take out those six points by Gay in the final seconds then Memphis would have only had one field goal in the entire fourth quarter.

The reason Memphis was shut down in the fourth quarter is because the Clippers used a physical style of play that caught the Grizzlies off guard and put them on their heels.

That physical style of play has originated from a couple of the team’s veterans setting a painful example by playing through an assortment of injuries while still playing with reckless abandon on the court.

Caron Butler played through a broken hand on Saturday afternoon. When he injured it less than a week ago, the team’s medical staff thought he would be out four to six weeks, not four to six days. Butler played through the pain on Saturday, and while he didn’t contribute a lot to the final box score, just being on the court seemed to inspire his teammates.

Chris Paul has been playing through a groin injury this entire series that has slowed him down. He broke through in Game 3 for a double-double by scoring 24 points and dropping 11 dimes.

Reggie Evans, while not injured, has been a complete beast on the glass this series and he did a great job in Game 3 with 11 rebounds.

Heading into this series, Memphis was supposed to be the franchise which would thrive on their toughness and grit. But, three games into this series it’s Los Angeles who has a 2-1 advantage thanks to their grit and mental toughness.

If this gritty style of play keeps up then the Clippers may be on their way to shedding the Lob City nickname moniker that they despise.

Podcast: 2012 NBA Playoffs Preview

After nearly a year, the Hoops Addict Podcast is back on a regular basis. I’ve linked up with Mark Cheel with the intention of bringing back the Podcast on a weekly basis and we started with a preview of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.

Mark and I break down why Atlanta can give Boston a scare, we debate if Utah’s frontcourt can muscle San Antonio out of the playoffs, we lament that the Clippers lack of a strong coach will result in Blake Griffin and Chris Paul not lasting as long as they should in the playoffs as well as the rest of the first round match-ups.

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Here’s the MP3 of the Podcast if you want to download it.