Who: Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder
When: Wednesday, November 14, 7:00 PM CST
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Records: Memphis (5-1), Oklahoma City (6-2)
Media: ESPN, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis heads into this one with a heavy heart in light of recent news of the passing of assistant general manager, Kenny “the Eggman” Williamson. The staff at 3 Shades of Blue extends our deepest condolences to the Williamson family through this tough time, and they will be in our thoughts and prayers. This Grizzlies team plows into Oklahoma City with a full head of steam, riding a 5 game winning streak that was highlighted by an extraordinary performance against Miami on Sunday. It was an exceptional, highlight-laden, all-around effort that carried the team to victory. Rudy Gay played Lebron James straight up for the entirety of the evening, posting a well-rounded line including 21 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks. In addition to Rudy, Zach Randolph was his usual double double self, Mike Conley put up 18 points and 9 assists, Marc Gasol provided 10 boards with 6 assists, and Tony Allen and co. limited Dwyane Wade to a frustrating 3-15 shooting. However, perhaps the most important advancement was the birth of the self-titled “Zoo Crew”. The bench unit dubbed themselves this moniker and as far as I’m concerned, if they continue to play the way the have been, they can call themselves whatever they want! Wayne Ellington was a pure marksman with his stroke beyond the arc in the last bout, dropping a career high 25 points accompanied by 7-11 shooting from the land of plenty.
Oklahoma City looks to bring their new-look beardless fury to the court when the Grizzlies roll in. Under any normal circumstances I would assume that this bodes well for the Grizzlies, but on second thought, you have to account for the guy that they replaced James Harden with. Yep, that guy: Kevin Martin. If there is anybody who has so masterfully handed it to the Grizzlies, he is the one. He has made a living out of bringing nothing but misery to Grizzlies fans, essentially as a not-so-poor man’s Kevin Durant, with his dagger-like three point shooting and sneaky ability to get to the free throw line (*cough* deceive the officials *cough*). Heck, he even lit us up for 22 in the preseason this year. The Thunder are riding a 5 game winning streak of their own, but subjectively, wins against the Rose-less Bulls, the Raptors, the Pistons twice, and the Cavs are not quite as inspiring as what our crew has put together. Aside from swapping out the bearded one for Martin and Jeremy Lamb, the Thunder have been the Thunder. They’re figuring things out with their new state of affairs, but Grizzly killer in his own right, Russell Westbrook has been his uber-erratic-yet-uber-productive self, and Durant has continued doing what he does scoring the ball, in addition to taking more aggression to the the glass this season. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention… they’re giving minutes to Hasheem Thabeet, so that should be fun.
Things to Watch For: The last time that the Grizzlies played the Thunder with all the troops in tow (and healthy) was the home opener last year, in which the Thunder squeaked out a painful victory with a three point margin. It’s still premature to say that there is any sort of rivalry, but the seven game playoff series has certainly set the stage for an interesting exhibition whenever these teams meet. The Thunder’s frontline may not be as gifted skill-wise as the Grizz, but they may be one of the few in the league that are as physical. The combination of the grimy, physical play of Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison, with the above the rim ability of Serge Ibaka has given our big men fits over the past few years, often disrupting the flow of our entire offense. If Marreese Speights can get into the mix and get his jumper going, drawing them out of the paint could open things up tremendously. Speaking of Speights and more specifically bench play, I’m not expecting 7 threes out of Wayne Ellington every night, but if he, Bayless, and Pondexter, or the “Three Point Mafia,” as they have affectionately become known as on the Grizzlies Message Boards, are cooking from the perimeter again, I can’t think of many teams that will be prepared to beat us at this point.
Matchup of the Night: Rudy Gay vs. Kevin Durant – Rudy was stellar against Lebron on Sunday and is going to have to bring it just the same against the other great small forward of the league. Durant is a very different matchup from Lebron. He’s not nearly as physical, but possesses the rangy length on defense and the devastating “oh no he didn’t” range on his jump shot to be twice as deflating a draw. Additionally, he and Rudy share some roots, hailing from the DC/Baltimore area, so Rudy tends to try to do too much, frustrating himself further. Rudy’s got all the talent to play KD straight up on any given night, so if he can harness that energy right, he could be the difference maker tonight.