Living for the Weekend: Taking the Boom out of the Thunder

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Courtesy of Kelley Evans

Courtesy of Kelley Evans

Fans of the Memphis Grizzlies have seen a few back to back games since the All Star Break. This weekend, however, is the only back to back at the Grindhouse this season though. In fact, February 2012 is the last time Grizzlies fans have seen a doubleheader at home. The home doubleheader of Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday and Washington Wizards on Saturday couldn’t come at a better time.

The Grizzlies have 6 more games in the regular season; half at home and half on the road. They’ve only managed to win 1 of their last 4 games. The three losses were all by double digits to playoff contenders (Cavaliers, Warriors, Spurs), and 2 of the 3 losses (Cavaliers and Warriors) were in front of the home crowd.

This weekend could very easily get the Grizzlies back in a Grit and Grind state of mind as they make ready to fight to stay in the 2nd spot in the Western Conference and end the season as the leader of the Southwest Division for the first time in franchise history.

Games against the Thunder are always intense for the Grizzlies. The teams have competed against each other a total of 38 times since the start of the 2010-11 season. This ranks as the most between any two teams in the league.

Friday night’s game against the Thunder was aired on ESPN. Growl towels from previous seasons and Super Grizz capes from Friday night’s giveaway to the first 3,000 fans could be seen throughout the crowd.

The Grizzlies slipped to the 3rd spot in the Western Conference and 2nd in the Southwest Division behind the Houston Rockets, and the Thunder is fighting to stay in the playoffs altogether with the New Orleans Pelicans nipping closely at their heels.

This game was important to both teams. The Grizzlies were without the services of Tony Allen, who’s suffering from a hamstring injury. Zach Randolph, suffering from an elbow injury, did play for the Grizzlies. The Thunder was without the services of Kevin Durant (right foot surgery), Serge Ibaka (right knee surgery), Nick Collison (left ankle sprain), and Andre Roberson (left ankle sprain).

Russell Westbrook, who’s making a strong push for MVP for the season, has been working overtime to help the Thunder stay within playoff contention in the Western Conference. Westbrook is leading the league in points averaging 27.6 ppg and has averaged 31.0 ppg since the All Star Break.

Although the game was thrilling from start to finish, the Grizzlies ended up being victorious scoring 100 points to the Thunder’s 92 points.

Game Notes:

The Grizzlies took 21 three point shots, made only 4 and didn’t actually connect on one until the 10th attempt. Jeff Green hit 2, Courtney Lee hit 1, and Zach Randolph (yes, ZBo) hit 1.

Jeff Green led all Grizzlies scorers with 22 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1 assist. Marc Gasol followed behind with 19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and 5 assists.

Enes Kanter was leading scorer for the Thunder with 24 points, 17 rebounds and 1 assist.

Russell Westbrook was the 2nd leading scorer for the Thunder with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Westbrook has 10 triple doubles this season, but it was Jeff Green’s lockdown defense (which is often criticized) starting in the 2nd quarter that helped ensure that Westbrook didn’t get triple double number 11 in Hoop City. Westbrook ended the game shooting 25% (5/20 FG) and only scored 4 points in the 2nd half (completely off of FTs; 0/7 FGs in 2nd half).

The Grizzlies PGs got into foul trouble early guarding Westbrook. Both Mike Conley and Nick Calathes ended the 1st half with 3 fouls each. Calathes would eventually foul out of the game with very little time left in the game.

In spite of his foul trouble, Nick Calathes ended the game with 10 points, 3 rebounds and 1 steal. Calathes made all 5 of his field goal attempts. Yes, Nick Calathes had a perfect field goal percentage including a well defended circus shot to close out the 3rd quarter.

Kosta Koufos led the Grizzlies in rebounding with 11 rebounds off the bench. Koufos had 12 rebounds in the Grizzlies’ last game against Sacramento. He becomes the first Grizzlies player with 10+ rebounds off the bench in consecutive games since Zach Randolph in April 2012 (4/15-4/17).

The Grizzlies won 3 of the 4 games against the Thunder this season.

Saturday night’s game against the Wizards is the 2nd and final meeting of those two teams this season. The two teams met a few weeks ago in Washington. During this meeting Coach Joerger rested the “Core Four” (Conley, Gasol, Randolph, Allen) and the Grizzlies took a loss on what many felt was a very winnable game.

There are only two teams the Grizzlies haven’t defeated at least once this season. They’ve already missed the opportunity to defeat the Cavaliers during the regular season. Don’t look for that to happen against the Washington Wizards; they’ve gotten their W for the season against this team. Expect the Grizzlies to defeat Wizards on the 2nd night of the doubleheader at home.

Again, every game counts, and the Grizzlies know it. If Friday night’s game is any indication of where this team is mentally, let’s just say the Grit and Grind mentality is back. With only 6 games left in the regular season, it’s now Grind Time folks. Fasten your seatbelts and hold on tight as the Grind to Greatness Continues!

Come out and support the home team if you can on Saturday night. The first 5,000 fans will receive a ZBo bow tie just in time to complement their Easter suit! If you can’t make it to the Grindhouse, be sure to tune in to Sports South or listen to game coverage on 92.9 FM at 7:00 p.m.

Carmen Patton
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