GOTN preview: Grizzlies vs. Thunder
Things haven’t gone according to plan this year for the Oklahoma City Thunder (27-25). Having Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook injured for a large part of the season put the team a hole they’ve been clawing out of since then but only so successfully (5-5 L10). Now we’re almost at the all-star break and they sit two games above .500 and 10th in the West. Because of OKC’s talent they are expected to at least make the playoffs in the 8th seed where the Suns sit currently. It won’t be easy in the stacked West. Why are the Thunder even in this position? Even with injuries it feels like OKC hasn’t done enough to make the most of Durant and Westbrook’s primes. It may boil down to the Harden trade. Since the Rockets got him and signed him to a massive deal, Harden’s been the best shooting guard in the NBA and it’s every OKC fan’s fantasy to see him on the same court as the current team.
The Grizzlies (39-13) are also searching for a championship. With Marc Gasol’s impending free agency, money is getting tight. Memphis made the smart trade for Jeff Green who fits perfectly into what the Grizzlies do and is a huge upgrade from the deteriorating Tayshaun Prince at an affordable price. They are currently second in the Western Conference and have been great at sticking to what they do best, Ground and Pound. With three point shooting and Spurs-style movement and passing becoming the most popular offensive system, the Grizzlies have stayed the course with their style, getting it into the big man (Z-bo or Gasol) and doing work in the post. They also play elite defense (1st in Points Allowed) and Mike Conley has been a steady presence at the point all year, worthy of being in All-Star if he was playing in the Eastern Conference.
The Grizzlies are a better coached and more disciplined team than OKC so I see them winning the GOTN tonight. Jeff Green will probably spend a lot of time guarding Durant and the Thunder will spend a lot of time struggling to defend the paint.
OKC – 90 MEM – 94