OKC vs. MEM Preview – Controlling the Paint

The Thunder and Grizzlies have faced each other so many times, the formula to success for both sides is painfully clear, it just comes down to execution.

For the Thunder, it must execute crisply on the offensive end, getting a high percentage shot as many times down court as possible. More importantly, its defense has to be at an extremely high level in order to keep the Grizzlies trio of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol under wraps. The last time these two teams met, the Thunder’s bigs held Randolph and Gasol to just 26 points on 26 shot attempts, something it will have to do again tonight.

“Our bigs did a great job of playing one-on-one defense first of all,” forward Kevin Durant said. “Then we also helped them out clogging the paint up and making those guys see our whole team and see our length.”

With defensive stalwart Kendrick Perkins out of the lineup due to injury, it will be up to the Thunder’s other bigs to contend with Gasol and Randolph in the post. Randolph likes to play on the block and in the short corner, whereas Gasol operates from the free throw line and elbow areas, creating a high-low punch that can test any defense. Thunder forward Nick Collison has plenty of experience going against the duo, and understands that even a matter of inches in positioning can make a difference on defense.

“The big thing is where they’re catching the ball,” Collison said. “If they’re catching it with a foot off the block, they’re tough to stop. If we can push them out, you have a little better shot.”

While the Grizzlies likely won’t push the tempo much in transition, rather opting to run through the shot clock to find a good shot, the Thunder still needs to get back and set on defense quickly each time down. Getting set up and in position ahead of time will help the Thunder size up where Randolph and Gasol will try to post up and also prevent Conley from getting into the teeth of the defense in the pick-and-roll. As a five-man unit, the Thunder has to be ready for a physical battle on every possession in order to get a win tonight.

“They run a lot of offense through Gasol at the elbows, so we’ll try to make his catches more difficult and not let him pick the defense apart because he’s a good passer,” Collison explained. “Getting back and getting in initial position and a good start to the defense is big against them.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder went 2-1 against the Grizzlies this season, and overall is 12-9 against Memphis in the regular season.

- The Thunder is 14-3 this season when creating ten-or-more steals this season and 3-1 when blocking ten-or-more shots.

- The Thunder is 17-2 this year when five-or-more players score in double figures and 2-0 when six-or-more players score in double figures.

Broadcast Info:

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