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Grizzlies face Thunder tonight in home opener

Kevin C. Cox/NBAE/Getty Images

How fitting that the Grizzlies home opener at FedExForum begins with the same Oklahoma City Thunder team that it ended against last May. A 95-83 Grizzlies' win that day that forced a Game 7 in their Western Conference semifinals matchup against the Thunder. While Oklahoma City would go on to advance to the conference finals, their matchup against the Grizzlies was the start of the NBA's newest rivalry featuring two of the league's young, yet talented teams. This is the first of four meetings between the two clubs, who will play twice in the season's first 16 days. While the cast of players remain virtually the same from their epic playoff series, there will be two noticeable differences. The Grizzlies will add forward Rudy Gay, who missed the playoffs while recovering from a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, the Thunder will trot out a slimmed down center in Kendrick Perkins, who shed 30 pounds during the off-season. Along with a healthy knee and having participated in his first training camp with the team after joining the Thunder in a mid-season trade a year ago, Perkins should be ready to resume his battles in the post against Memphis big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

Rudy Gay vs. Kevin Durant

Motivation is the theme word for Rudy Gay this season, and the Grizzlies' longest tenured player has plenty of it to help get him through the 2011-12 season. Gay was having an all-star kind of season, averaging 19.8 points, 6.2 rebonds and 1.69 steals a game before a separated shoulder ended his season in February. Gay would like to show that his presence could have been the difference in the Grizzlies advancing to the conference finals, rather than the Thunder. But he'll have to try and slow down the league's most prolific scorer, Kevin Durant. Durant led the NBA in scoring for a second straight season, averaging 27.7 ppg. He also was the leading scoring in the postseason, averaging 28.6 ppg.