OKC vs. MEM Preview – Thunder Can Play Any Style

Every time the Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies meet, it’s a mental and physical battle that rewards the team who executes best for the full 48 minutes.

The Thunder knows that the Grizzlies will try to slow it down and play a grind-it-out style, while Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club would like to push the tempo. With big men like Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Steven Adams, the Thunder has the bodies inside to deal with the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but also has athletes on the wings in Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha, Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb to get out and run.

“We can play either type of way, in the 80’s or 90’s and we can play in the 100’s,” Durant said. “We have bigs who can bang and we have guards who can score and cane play small too. We just have to go out there and be us and not worry too much about what type of game it’s going to be.”

The key matchups for these two teams are in the paint, where Perkins and Ibaka can interchangeably defend Gasol and Randolph. Ibaka’s ability to protect the rim gives him an opportunity to come over from the helpside if either player is posting up, but he can also take the challenge of defending one-on-one. Perkins’ physical strengths can keep Randolph away from the block and prevent Gasol from getting easy putbacks.

“Serge uses his quickness, his length and athleticism and Perk just uses his quickness, smarts, long arms and strength against those guys and just makes it tough on them,” Durant said.

In some situations, the Thunder can also play Kevin Durant or Perry Jones at the power forward position, giving the team an extra boost of quickness, length and versatility. Although slightly less traditional, that lineup gives the Thunder a chance to get out and run at a faster tempo. At the same time, however, Durant and Jones have shown the ability to use their physical tools in different ways than Perkins and Ibaka in order to help their team get stops. Against Memphis tonight, Durant and Jones’ ability to defend the Grizzlies’ bigs could be a big indicator of team success.

“I just use my quickness and not let them catch the ball,” Durant said. “I guarded them in the Playoffs and guarded them some last game. I’m ready to bang with those guys if I have to. It might be a different size matchup, but I’m willing to do whatever my team needs me to do.”

“It’s hard to guard anybody one-on-one in this league,” Jones said. “Having helpside, having guys talk to you and knowing where to push (them), knowing where to send them and things like that.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 1-1 against the Grizzlies this season, and overall is 11-9 against Memphis in the regular season.

- The Thunder is 7-0 this season when its opponent scores less than 90 points in a game.

- The Thunder is 20-6 this season when Serge Ibaka blocks three-or-more shots.

Broadcast Info:

7:00 p.m. CT. TV – Fox Sports Oklahoma; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network