Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies Game Recap – Jan. 11, 2017

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

The game still hung in the balance, with the Thunder’s wire-to-wire lead in jeopardy and down to just two points at 88-86 with 2:58 to go. Enes Kanter tipped in a Steven Adams miss, then for over a minute of play, near-chaos ensued.

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley missed a jumper, Adams was blocked, the Grizzlies missed two free throws then Conley made a steal and pushed the ball into the open floor. Somehow, someway, Adams chased the lightning-quick point guard down and forced him to re-settle back out on the perimeter. As Conley lined up a three Adams extended his arm and deflected the shot with his fingertips.

“It was an incredible play by Steven,” Head Coach Billy Donovan said. “That possession embodied what took place and was required tonight defensively.”

“It’s a great job by Steven, a great job of switching out,” Russell Westbrook said. “He did an amazing job defensively, like he did all game tonight. He did a great job and we make sure that doesn’t go unnoticed.”

The ball fell lazily into Russell Westbrook’s hands, but he only put it into third gear as he pushed the ball up the court, baiting the lone defender into leaving Victor Oladipo. Westbrook zipped the ball to his shooting guard, who knocked down a three-pointer, his fourth on the game on just 10 total shot attempts, and gave the Thunder a 93-86 lead. That bucket sent the crowd ablaze and was a crucial part of a 10-0 burst that resulted in a 103-95 Thunder victory on Wednesday night.

“(Oladipo’s) three was big,” Donovan said. “Russell did a good job engaging him in some different actions to keep him involved. I give Victor a lot of credit for staying engaged because it would have been very easy to feel out of the game flow throughout the course of the game. But he kept his focus, kept his concentration and made a big shot.”

After being beaten on the road by 34 just two weeks ago out in Memphis, the Thunder came into the game rightfully anxious to not just win but to actively and intentionally perform at a higher level in crucial aspects of the game: physicality, composure and playing without fouling. The evidence of that was all over the stat sheet tonight, as the Thunder out-rebounded the Grizzlies 53-39 while forcing its foe into just 41.3 percent shooting from the floor.

“Our guys really competed in that part of the game,” Donovan explained. “When the ball was loose, our guys really competed the best they could.”

“It was one of those grind-out games,” Adams said. “It’s good that the boys kind of stuck with it, got lucky on some stuff and came out with it.”

The Thunder never trailed in this one because even against a stout Memphis defense it kept the scoreboard moving. It’s engine was Westbrook, per usual, who recorded his 18th triple-double of the season and the 55th of his career, just four shy of Larry bird for fifth all-time in NBA history. Westbrook didn’t shoot it at his normal clip, but racked up 24 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists while also making two steals and blocking a shot.

‪There's another one! Russ matches his total number of trip-dubs all of last season. #NBAVOTE Russell Westbrook ‬

A photo posted by Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder) on

“Russell was great tonight,” Donovan said. “Maybe the ball didn’t go in the basket, but he impacts the game in a lot of different ways. Tonight was a perfect example of that. Whether he’s missing or making shots, it doesn’t really make a difference. He can get his fingerprints into the game.”

“We talked about it this morning,” center Enes Kanter revealed. “The most important thing was physicality and staying lower than them. That’s what we did tonight.”

Aiding Westbrook tonight was Oladipo, who picked up the slack from the outside by hitting four threes on his way to 16 points, and the Thunder center platoon of Adams and Enes Kanter. The latter of whom came off the bench and was an absolute force on the block against Memphis, scoring 19 points, snaring 13 rebounds, dishing out three assists and even snagging two steals. Operating as a point center on the left block, Kanter used his power post game to punish Memphis all night.

“I want teams to double team me so I can make my teammates better,” Kanter chuckled. “They come to double team, I’m finding the open man, they’re making shots and we’re having fun.”

The exclamation point on the night came in the closing minute when Thunder fans saw newcomer Jerami Grant unleashed. The dynamic, versatile forward played 18 minutes including the final 1:13 for his defense, but also made two highlight-reel dunks in that time-frame. The first was an and-one two-handed slam after a loose ball squirted to him at the dunker spot. The next was an incredible fast break, two-handed reverse slam that evaded the reach of Marc Gasol.


Thunder vs. Grizzlies Highlights - Jan. 11, 2017:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

By the Numbers

4-for-7 – Three-point shooting numbers for Victor Oladipo, who scored 16 points and hit the biggest shot of the game

18 – Triple-doubles for Russell Westbrook on the season, matching his number from last season, which was the most since Magic Johnson in 1981-82

53-39 – The Thunder’s rebounding advantage on the night, led by Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter who each grabbed 13

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Last Word

“I’m really happy with the way our guys responded on both ends of the floor. It was very, very physical by both teams… I give our guys a lot of credit. The resiliency, the perseverance, the fight and the battle to not get wrapped up in the ball going in and out of the basket but to do the things physically that went into winning the game tonight.” - Head Coach Billy Donovan

Thunder UP! Russell Westbrook #NBAVOTE

A photo posted by Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder) on

Related Content