For a moment there, after three consecutive home losses since his comeback, it actually seemed like Russell Westbrook was the cause of all problems for the Oklahoma City Thunder. But there’s nothing like a win to put away any idea about a jinx or anything of that sort, as Kevin Durant leads his team to a big 113-107 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
The big problem for the Thunder is their defense late in the game. Missing Kendrick Perkins has been an issue, and once again it was their defensive problems late in the game that almost allowed the Grizzlies, who were behind by 16 points in the fourth quarter, to bring it back down to three points.
Mike Miller, with 19 points in the fourth quarter, almost did it by himself on his won when the Grizzlies seemed to be giving up. But the Thunder had enough of Kevin Durant, scoring 37 points, including 30 in the first half, to pull away for their first win since Russell Westbrook came back from his injury, even if they didn’t look too impressive while getting it done.
Steven Adams, starting for Perkins at the center position, was almost out of the lineup because of a flu he was playing with. It meant Hasheem Thabeet was finally on the floor, getting 2 points, 4 rebounds and one huge block over Courtney Lee in a decent 17 minutes of basketball from the former lottery pick by the Grizzlies.
The Thunder are still without Caron Butler who reportedly will sign with them by the end of the weekend or the start of next week, but it seems that his potential signing comes at the perfect time with Thabo Sefolosha picking up an injury early in the game. There are those hoping to see some small-ball lineup from the Thunder that will include Jackson, Westbrook, Butler, Durant and Ibaka. Scott Brooks isn’t a big lover of small lineups, even though their most impressive win this season, over the Heat in Miami, came thanks to turning away from his insistence on a “real” center playing in the lineup.
This was another game demonstrating how a bad half from Kevin Durant doesn’t mean anything about the rest of the game. It looked like the Grizzlies, who have had their success against Durant in the past, found once again a way to slow him down during the first 24 minutes. But there’s no real way of shutting him down, and it resulted in one of the more dominant two-quarters we’ve seen from any player this season.
The Grizzlies remain on the outside of the playoff picture, slightly trailing the Mavs and the Suns, hoping to make up for all the ground they lost while Marc Gasol was injured. The Thunder remain ahead of the Spurs and Blazers in the lead for the West, hoping that the six-week injury that will keep Perkins off the court won’t mean more losing like we had this week. It’s an opportunity once again to learn how to play without a key lineup player, and possibly force Scott Brooks to get creative by adjusting to the new situation, beyond the usual reliance on Durant to save the day.