When: Wenesday, December 11th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
The term “revenge game” gets tossed around pretty liberally in sports, but if you want to talk about setting the stage for one of the sort, here you have it. Oklahoma City is going to be hungry and angry against the Grizzly team that facilitated its perceived untimely end… or at least what’s left of it.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Russell Westbrook
Mike Conley was excellent in the first half in Monday’s win over the Magic, but he scored just one point in the second half, as his shots simply refused to fall in. Westbrook has been somewhat off his game since returning to the lineup earlier than expected, as he’s shootng just .417 from the field, and his assists have fallen below six per game. Still, no one doubt that Westbrook is one of the finest point guards in the game, and as he continues to adjust, look for his game to resemble his usual excellence more and more.
Advantage: Oklahoma City
Tony Allen vs Thabo Sefolosha
Tony appears to be ready to make his return to the lineup, which is a relief because the Grizzlies could certainly use him against the two-headed beast known as Durant and Westbrook. Sefolosha is one of the 2-guards in the league whose defense is close to that of Allen’s, but Tony is all about forcing hi way to the hoop, Sefolosha’s offense depends heavily on the three-ball. As defenders rush to guard the two superstars, Thabo is often left wide open from beyond the arc, and he takes advantage of that all night long. Look for either Conley or Prince to take him tonight while Tony handles Westbrook and possibly Durant.
Tayshaun Prince vs Kevin Durant
Unless the heat are in town, it doesn’t get more anti-climactic than this. Look, Tayshaun Prince has ahd a fine career, and he’s been sneakily useful this year, but Durant is the second best player in the league, and anyone tasked with defending him will have their hands full. At this point, Durant’s greatness is so established that it’s almost boring to talk about, but watching him drain a three from well beyond the arc on one play, and then throw down a monstrous jam on the next is still quite a bit of fun. Unless he’s playing the Grizzlies, of course…
Zach Randolph vs Serge Ibaka
How great was Z-Bo against the Magic? After a few rough games – and a toenail injury, he really had his groove back, picking up a double-double, and hitting several key shot down the stretch. Ibaka is having another solid year, averaging nearly a double-double (9.9 boards per game). His shooting is down a bit – from .573 to .513, but he’s still an excellent shot blocker who can be relied on to contribute on both sides of the ball.
Kosta Koufos vs Kendrick Perkins
Koufos was a beast on the glass once again against Orlando, hauling in 11 boards despite not playing much in the fourth quarter. Still, his offensive output was disappointing. Last year, he was incredibly efficient while playing in George Karl’s up-tempo offense, but there have been serious growing pains adjusting the lower pace in Memphis, as hes shooting just .445, more then 13 percent less than what he shot last year. Still, he’s been much better than Perkins who has looked beyond washed up these past few years. Steven Adams has looked more and more like a better option at center for this team despite his unpolished game.
It’s been brutal how thin the Grizzlies bench has been stretched lately, with the injury to Quincy Pondexter only exacerbating the problem. Luckily, the Grizzlies have found ways to cope. Jon Leuer in particular has been extremely impressive in this stretch, hitting double figures off the bench three times in the past week. Leuer has proven his value to the team, and it’ll be interesting to see what the team does with him once Marc returns. You’d have to think Joerger will continue t get him minutes because this guy really deserves to playing on a regular basis. As for the Thunder, they still give serious minutes Derek Fisher which is kind hilarious unless it’s the playoffs. Reggie Jackson is one of the better point guards in the league, and you have to figure he could be a hot commodity when he hits free agency. Nick Collison is still his reliable/boring old self. This isn’t the deepest team in the world, but they can be surprisingly effective, if only due to their familiarity with each other.