Thunder-Grizzlies Postseason Match-Up Marks The 3rd Meeting In 4 Years

Thunder-Grizzlies Postseason Match-Up Marks The 3rd Meeting In 4 Years

Is anyone really surprised that these two teams will butt heads in yet another playoff series? This marks the 3rd time in a 4-year span that these two teams will square off. It’s almost as if these two teams are linked.

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Banner celebrating the Thunder’s 4th consecutive Northwest Division Championship.

2011 was the first meeting. It was the second trip to the playoffs for the Thunder, who were itching to prove they belonged there after pushing the Lakers to 6 games in the 2010 playoffs only to lose at literally the last second due to Pau Gasol’s tip-in. They did so by downing the Nuggets in 5 games to move on to the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Another Gasol by the name of Marc was looking to make an impact for the Grizzlies coming into this series as well. The Grizzlies had just knocked off the Spurs, requiring 6 games to seal the series.

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PG Russell Westbrook: 21.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 6.9 APG

The series itself didn’t start well for the Thunder either, as the Grizzlies came into Oklahoma City Arena (as it was known at the time, because Chesapeake didn’t acquire the naming rights until July of that year) and took Game 1 in rather convincing fashion, 114-101 in a game were the Thunder were outscored in all but the 4th quarter, which ended in a tie. Game 2 saw the Thunder redeem themselves at OKC Arena with a 111-102 final. However, due to the Game 1 loss, the Grizzlies were now the ones with the home court advantage, and it would require the Thunder taking a game at FedEx Forum in Memphis to reclaim it.

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SG Thabo Sefolosha: 6.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.5 APG

The first attempt at that didn’t go so well, as the Grizzlies took it 101-93. Fortunately for the Thunder, it required an OT period for the Grizzlies to get it done. Game 4 saw 3 overtime periods played to determine a winner, which ended up being the Thunder. The Thunder used a 14-4 3OT period to seal a 133-123 victory to knot the series up at 2 games apiece. This meant that Game 5 at OKC Arena would be pivotal to the series.

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SF Kevin Durant: 32 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.5 APG

The Thunder took that pivotal Game 5 using some super-stingy defense. The end result was a 99-72 victory that finally saw one of the squads build up a winning streak after trading wins each game. That win put the Grizzlies behind the 8 Ball (No. Not the Memphis rapper. Although chalk that up to an odd coincidence.), because now it was win or go home.

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PF Serge Ibaka: 15.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1 APG

Game 6 was the last one of the series to be played at FedEx Forum, and the Grizzlies responded beautifully, taking Game 6 95-83 to force the always-decisive Game 7 back at OKC Arena.

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C Kendrick Perkins: 3.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.1 APG

I really feel the Game 7 of this series instilled much of the confidence and swagger you see in the Thunder today. By taking Game 7 105-90, the Thunder proved to themselves and the rest of the world that they could survive tough postseason tests against top competition.

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PG Mike Conley: 17.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 6 APG

Last year’s postseason was the one where the Grizzlies got their revenge. taking advantage of Russell Westbrook’s absence after an injury suffered when a Rocket by the name of Patrick Beverly (who is now officially Public Enemy #1 in the OKC area) tore the meniscus (the cartilage in your knee that absorbs shock) in Westbrook’s right knee going for a steal after the whistle was already blown. With Westbrook out, despite the Thunder being able to take Game 1 93-91, the Grizzlies went on to win the next 4 straight, taking the series in 5 games.

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SG Courtney Lee: 9.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.5 APG

I was going to go into some numbers for this upcoming series, but if you ask me, John Schuhmann already did great work of that in Sekou Smith’s Hang Time Blog on NBA.com.

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SF Tayshaun Prince: 6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.6 APG

Numbers Preview: Thunder-Grizzlies

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PF Zach Randolph: 17.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.5 APG

And you can get great analysis of the individual match-ups here:

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C Marc Gasol: 14.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.6 APG

SportVU Preview

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Nick Calathes. Rookie reserve PG for the Grizzlies who will most likely miss the entire postseason after being served a 20-game suspension yesterday for failing a drug test.

As far as this postseason series goes, I wouldn’t count on a sweep. As a matter of fact, if you ask me, don’t be surprised to see this series go to 7 games once again. Both teams feature stout defenses and improved perimeter shooting. I still see the Thunder taking this series, I just don’t see it being the walk in the park some Thunder fans are trying to make it out to be. My prediction: Thunder in 7. (I just see them needing all 7 games to finally put away a Grizzlies team that can be rather pesky. Never sell your competition short.)

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Patrick Beverly’s Aggression Proves Costly As Thunder Take 4th Straight At The Peake

Patrick Beverly’s Aggression Proves Costly As Thunder Take 4th Straight At The Peake

NBA.com’s Randy Renner is even referring to Chesapeake Energy Arena as “The Peake”, so I might as well drop the apostrophe and quotations when I use it moving forward. I have a feeling that name will take off big in the next season or two.

Kevin Durant floats one over Howard as James Harden looks on. Durant led all scorers with 48 points, while Harden led all Rockets scorers with 28. Howard added 10 rebounds.

Kevin Durant floats one over Dwight Howard as James Harden looks on. Durant led all scorers with 48 points, while Harden led all Rockets scorers with 28. Howard added 10 rebounds.

Renner gave me a great laugh yesterday however as I was gathering material for this postgame. In the Rockets-Thunder notebook, he described the Thunder defense as having “returned from an extended All-Star break”. Well, they certainly showed up at “The ‘Peake” against James Harden, Dwight Howard and the rest of the Rockets squad. Although Patrick Beverly and his two incidents involving Russell Westbrook in the 1st quarter provided all of the fuel the Thunder would require, as Renner points to those incidents in particular (which I would agree with) as the turning point of the ball game. They certainly got not only the squad fired up, but the entire Oklahoma City crowd as well. But to really put them in perspective, allow me to set the backdrop for a moment.

Westbrook and Patrick Beverly waste no time reestablishing their rivarly last night.

Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverly waste no time reestablishing their rivalry last night. Westbrook ended up getting the better of it, finishing with 24 points against Beverly’s 2.

Westbrook scored the game’s opening 2 points off of a Kevin Durant assist, followed by the Rockets rattling off 7 straight points. This 7-2 lead would eventually prove to be the Rockets’ largest of the game, but I digress. The Thunder would then answer with 6 straight points to reclaim an 8-7 lead. After trading buckets, the Rockets would hit another 5 unanswered points to claim a 14-10 lead. James Harden had just made a 3-pointer, and Westbrook calls for the timeout when Beverly goes for the late steal in a way very reminiscent of how Westbrook received his knee injury that required a surgical hat trick to fully repair. Westbrook responded with a shove, and then Beverly shoved back, earning himself a technical foul with 6:10 remaining in the 1st.

That incident alone would have been enough to light the Thunder’s collective fuse, but Beverly apparently felt as though he didn’t do enough. Following his lone basket of the game, Beverly goes for another steal against Westbrook, sending both players crashing to the ground. Then, in an I’m-not-exactly-sure-what-you’re-trying-to-prove type of move, Beverly decides to wrap Westbrook up and try to pin him to the court. The officials decided that this was the time to let Beverly know that this type of play was not going to be tolerated, and subsequently slapped him with his first personal foul at the 5:07 mark.

All of this went down towards the beginning of an 11-3 run, which ironically saw Beverly score his only 2 points of the game (a run that was 8-1 following Beverly’s made basket). This run resulted in a 21-17  Thunder lead with 2:32 to play in the 1st. Then an odd 4-1 Rockets run that consisted of all free throws brought them to within 1 (22-21), before a Caron Butler jump shot off of a Derek Fisher assist would briefly break the monotony. The rest of the 1st would end with both teams trading free throws.

Caron Butler, the newest Thunder acquisition.

Caron Butler, the newest Thunder acquisition, is quickly proving to be a reliable bench scorer, adding 11 points last night.

The 2nd opened with 3 more Rocket free throws, ending a strange period that saw Butler’s 2 points as the only points scored that didn’t come off of free throws following Durant’s diving bank shot with 3:36 left in the 1st quarter. If you count the 3 by Durant before his diving bank shot, just after Beverly’s only made bucket, you have a period where, despite the Thunder outscoring the Rockets 13-11, all but 4 Thunder points came off of free throws for both teams. Apparently The Thunder defense got so fired up following Beverly’s actions against Westbrook, that the Rockets would go on to miss their next 12 shots from the field. The Rockets went so cold, they even ran into trouble at the foul line, going 11-for-17 at the charity stripe during that period. But even though the Rockets’ last 11 points came from the free throw line, they were still enjoying a 28-27 lead with 9:14 to play in the first half (which would end up being their last lead of the game). That’s when the Thunder went up-tempo, and sparked a 23-5 run that established a 17-point lead with 3:46 remaining in the 2nd. The Rockets tried to push back, but the Thunder lead was 15 (56-41), heading into halftime.

Westbrook finishes the easy lay-in.

Westbrook finishes the easy lay-in.

The 3rd started with 3 points from the Thunder, which extended their lead to 18 (59-41). This would prove to be their largest lead of the game however, as the Thunder proceeded to do what they do best. Up 18 with about 22 minutes of basketball left, the Thunder once again decide to sit back. The Rockets immediately take advantage of this decision with a 12-4 run that closed the gap to 11 (63-52) with 7:17 left in the 3rd. After a 7-2 Thunder run reopened the lead to 16 (70-54), the Rockets would respond with 7 unanswered points to pull within single-digits (70-61) for the first time since the 5:28 mark of the 2nd quarter. And this turnaround happened so fast, there was still 2:58 left in the 3rd quarter. The 3rd would end with both teams trading shots, and the Thunder hanging on to a 77-67 lead.

Durant takes the open shot as he catches Harden, Jeremy Lin,  and Chandler Parsons all with their hands down. Parsons finished with 19 points.

Durant takes the open shot as he catches Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Chandler Parsons all with their hands down. Parsons finished with 19 points.

The 4th opened with a Rockets run that started on Jeremy Lin’s floater with 36.8 seconds to play in the 3rd. That run ended at 9-2, pulling the Rockets within two possessions (79-74) with 8:44 left on the game clock.The Thunder pushed back, scoring 7 unanswered to push the lead back to double digits (86-74) with 7:39 to play. 5 unanswered Rockets points would subsequently end up rebutted by 6 unanswered Thunder points, but the Rockets would make a late push with a 13-5 run that had them once again looking at a two-possession game (97-92) with a mere 2:25 remaining. 2 Durant free throws were answered at the other end by a Francisco Garcia driving jumper. That’s when Beverly was whistled for the foul that would end the Rockets’ chance at a comeback, catching Westbrook mid-air and mid-fall behind the 3-point arc. Westbrook would go on to hit all 3 free throws, establishing an 8-point lead (102-94) with 1:31 to play. 8 points would prove to be the difference, as the Thunder claim a 106-98 victory that puts them at 47-17 for the season while claiming their 4th straight win at home. Meanwhile, the Rockets fall to 44-20, as their 5-game winning streak ends up snapped the moment they take it on the road.

Three of the Thunder's 4 big contributors of the evening sharing a well-deserved celebration.

Three of the Thunder’s 4 big contributors of the evening sharing a well-deserved celebration.

In this postgame video they talk about how reputation got Beverly a bad call to end that game. Sorry, but after the two stunts he pulled in the 1st quarter, I can’t say I feel bad for him.

Durant’s 42 points not only led all scorers, but marked his 11th 40+-point game of the season. He also tied a career high by scoring 25+ in his 29th consecutive game. Westbrook not only added 24 points, but Serge Ibaka had a strong 12-point, 16-rebound performance that marks his 23rd double-double of the season. New addition (and turning into quite the bench scorer) Caron Butler was even nice enough to add 11 points from the Thunder bench.

Serge Ibaka rises to challenge Howard. Ibaka ended his night with a 12-point, 16-rebound double-double.

Serge Ibaka rises to challenge Howard. Ibaka ended his night with a 12-point, 16-rebound double-double.

The Rockets’ starters struggled mightily from the field. Harden posted 28 points, but shot only 9-for-21 from the field, including 3-of-7 from downtown. 7 of Harden’s points came from the charity stripe. Chandler Parsons scored 19, but they came off of a 6-for-17 shooting performance that also saw 3-for-7 from beyond the arc. 4 of Parson’s points were also foul shots. Howard posted 10 rebounds, but was held to a mere 9 points off of 4-for-12 shooting, including a dismal 1-for-6 from the free-throw line (Big props to Steven Adams for the defense he played there.). The only real bright spot for the Rockets came from their bench, as Garcia dropped 11 points off of 4-for-5 shooting, which included 3-of-4 from 3-point land.

The two most efficient scorers for each squad last night, as Durant's 42 points came off of 12-for-22 shooting, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, while Francisco Garcia provided 11 points off of 4-for-5 shooting, including 3-of-4 from downtown.

The two most efficient scorers for each squad last night, as Durant’s 42 points came off of 12-for-22 shooting, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, while Francisco Garcia provided 11 points off of 4-for-5 shooting, including 3-of-4 from downtown.

Tonight the Thunder look to prove that Sunday’s 114-100 loss to the Lakers was a mere fluke. A win tonight will not only mark the 5th straight home victory, but will claim a 3-1 season-series victory over the Lakers. The Thunder took the Dec. 13th match-up with a convincing 122-97 final, but barely held on to beat the Lakers during their first trip to LA, squeaking out a 107-103 win. If the Thunder defense and the home crowd can be as intense as they were two nights ago, the Thunder should get their win back. The game is scheduled for an 8:30 CST tip-off, but seeing as TNT has picked up the game for the back-end of tonight’s double-header, a 9:30 CST tip-off is far more likely. Not near a TV? You can still catch the action via WWLS, The Sports Animal.

The Number 13 Is A Lucky One For The Thunder. It Ties A Franchise Record.

The Number 13 Is A Lucky One For The Thunder. It Ties A Franchise Record.

Who said 13 was an unlucky number?

A familiar sight inside "The 'Peake". Fans of opposing teams might as well get used to seeing this.

A familiar sight inside “The ‘Peake”. Fans of opposing teams might as well get used to seeing this.

That’s the magic number for this year’s Thunder squad. 13, as in 13 consecutive home victories to open the season. 13 ties a franchise record that was set back in the ’76-’77 season when the team was still the Seattle Supersonics. The next season saw the Sonics make an NBA Finals appearance. The following season, the Sonics brought an NBA Championship to Seattle.

Russell Westbrook shoots over D.J. Augustin. Westbrook finished his night with a 20-point 10-assist double-double. Augustin posted 15 points for the Bulls.

Russell Westbrook shoots over D.J. Augustin. Westbrook finished his night with a 20-point 10-assist double-double. Augustin posted 15 points for the Bulls.

Therefore, it makes sense that the Seattle residents were a more than a little miffed to hear that their NBA team was packing up and skipping town. Before that NBA Championship, the only professional sports championship Seattle had seen was when the Seattle Metropolitans won the 1917 Stanley Cup in the days of the PCHL, just before the NHL opened its inaugural season. Although since the move, Seattle’s MLS franchise, the Seattle Sounders FC have claimed three straight U.S. Open Cup Championships from ’09-’11.

Kevin Durant goes for the lay-in as Augustin watches, powerless to stop him.

Kevin Durant goes for the lay-in as Augustin watches, powerless to stop him.

It’s been five years since the Thunder came to town, and yet the days of the inaugural 23-59 OKC “Blunder” seem like a lifetime ago. The team has managed to improve their record every season since showing up in OKC. Again, they finished 23-59 in their first year, which was the only year they missed the playoffs since relocation.

Thabo Sefolosha squares off with Mike Dunleavy. Sefolosha finished with 10 points. Dunleavy added 11 points to the Bulls' total.

Thabo Sefolosha squares off with Mike Dunleavy. Sefolosha finished with 10 points. Dunleavy added 11 points to the Bulls’ total.

The next year saw a drastic improvement of 27 wins, finishing with a 50-32 record. That postseason saw them push the Lakers to 6 games in the opening round before Pau Gasol’s last-second tip-in closed the door on what was considered, at the time, a miracle season. It’s funny, yet not all that surprising that the Thunder weren’t expected to match that production the following season, and yet they continued to improve.

Reggie Jackson leaves Tony Snell in the dust. Jackson contributed 18 points off of the Thunder bench. Snell dropped 10 off of the Bulls bench.

Reggie Jackson leaves Tony Snell in the dust. Jackson contributed 18 points off of the Thunder bench. Snell dropped 10 off of the Bulls bench.

The next season saw the Thunder claim their first Northwest Division Championship of the OKC era, and improve on the win total once again, finishing 55-27. The postseason featured a Western Conference Finals appearance against the Dallas Mavericks, but over-reliance on jump shooting had them ousted from the playoffs after 5 games. Although now even the NBA analysts themselves were noticing a trend: The Thunder just get better every year.

Joakim Noah is challenged by Serge Ibaka. Noah finished with a 23-point, 12-rebound double-double. Ibaka's numbers probably would have been better if he didn't play most of the game in foul trouble.

Joakim Noah is challenged by Serge Ibaka. Noah finished with a 23-point, 12-rebound double-double. Ibaka’s numbers probably would have been better if he didn’t play most of the game in foul trouble.

Although the following season didn’t feature as many victories in the regular season (47-19), it didn’t feature as many losses either, as they only played a total of 68 games in the strike-shortened NBA season. This postseason actually saw the Thunder capture the Western Conference Championship, but they ended up running into a Heat squad that had their number, and wound up ousted after 5 games. As the Thunder never seemed to regress, many felt that the NBA Championship was the next logical step last season.

Carlos Boozer battles Steven Adams for the loose ball. Boozer finished with 10 points.

Carlos Boozer battles Steven Adams for the loose ball. Boozer finished with 10 points.

It possibly could have been too, as the Thunder finished with a 60-22 record, and were heading into the postseason as the top seed in the Western Conference. Then the Patrick Beverly collision with Russell Westbrook injured Westbrook’s knee. Although the Thunder were still able to make it out of the opening round without Westbrook, they ran into a Grizzlies squad that still remembered their conference semi-finals ousting at the hands of the Thunder in 7 games two seasons ago, and you could just tell they were itching to return the favor. Westbrook’s absence was too much to surmount, and the Grizzlies ended the Thunder’s championship hopes in 5 games.

Taj Gibson backing down Ibaka. Gibson contributed 16 points from the Bulls bench.

Taj Gibson backing down Ibaka. Gibson contributed 16 points from the Bulls bench.

This season seems like they’ve managed to improve yet again, despite the fact that there might not be much room for improvement left.  They’ve shattered glass ceiling after glass ceiling to the point where the next ceiling they hit may not be a glass one. They may just end up on top, point blank. And for every other team in the league, that is a very scary thought to consider.

Buckets were getting scored, and Kendrick Perkins didn't want to be left out.

Buckets were getting scored, and Kendrick Perkins didn’t want to be left out.

The Thunder move to 21-4 with their 107-95 win over the Bulls last night, while the Bulls drop to a dismal 9-16 in the absence of Derrick Rose.

Jeremy Lamb may not have reached double-digits last night, but he looks good here as a trailing Marquis Teague looks on from afar.

Jeremy Lamb may not have reached double-digits last night, but he looks good here as a trailing Marquis Teague looks on from afar.

Westbrook seems determined to prove his worth to the squad this season, as he posted a double-double of 20 points and 10 assists. Kevin Durant finished with 32 points, and Thabo Sefolosha managed double-digits last night, with 10 points. Reggie Jackson dropped 18 from the Thunder bench.

Reggie Jackson takes flight.

Reggie Jackson takes flight.

Joakim Noah is easily the Bulls’ best player in Rose’s absence. He notched the only other double-double of the night, with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Although five other Bulls players scored double-digits: D.J. Augustin dropped 15, Mike Dunleavy added 11, Carlos Boozer posted 10, and bench players Tony Snell and Taj Gibson combined for 26 off of the Bulls’ bench (Snell: 10, Gibson: 16).

Westbrook to the rim.

Westbrook to the rim.

Although I see a true test coming for the Thunder this Saturday. They travel to AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX to take on the Spurs. They took the first meeting of the season by a score of 94-88 back on Nov. 27th. That’s only a 6-point margin of victory, so we probably won’t be seeing starters sitting out of the 4th quarter in this contest. Gregg Popovich always gets his squad to play hard. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.

Westbrook’s Presence, Gasol’s Absence Big Factors As Thunder Dominate Once Again.

Westbrook’s Presence, Gasol’s Absence Big Factors As Thunder Dominate Once Again.

This was Westbrook’s final play of last season.

Russell Westbrook and Mike Conley square off. Both Westbrook and Conley were the leading scorers for their respective teams (Westbrook posted 27points, as Conley dropped 20.).

Russell Westbrook and Mike Conley square off. Both Westbrook and Conley were the leading scorers for their respective teams (Westbrook posted 27 points, as Conley dropped 20.).

If you were to tell me that Westbrook had this particular game circled on his calendar, and that he was chomping at the bit for the chance to hit the floor against this Grizzlies team, I would be inclined to believe you. Although several months have passed since the Grizzlies ousted the Thunder from the Western Conference Semi-Finals in a dominating 4-1 fashion, I wouldn’t doubt Westbrook remembers it like it was yesterday. Sadly however, it isn’t from the experience that Westbrook draws his memory from, as he never got to play a second of the series. A collision with Patrick Beverly during Game 2 of the Thunder-Rockets series had torn the meniscus in Westbrook’s right knee, and effectively ended his season. That one play not only made Patrick Beverly Public Enemy #1 in the state of Oklahoma, but essentially reshaped the entire Western Conference.

Westbrook skys for the lay-in as Jamaal Franklin is reduced to the role of dread-filled spectator.

Westbrook skys for the lay-in as Jamaal Franklin is reduced to the role of dread-filled spectator.

Last night, Westbrook made sure his presence was felt.

Alternate angle of the Westbrook lay-in attempt.

Alternate angle of the Westbrook lay-in attempt.

However, despite the Thunder being without Thabo Sefolosha for the second straight game, the Grizzlies knew they were about to be in for a taste of what the Thunder went though in their last playoff series. What had the Grizzlies concerned was that they would be without Marc Gasol, who is out indefinitely with a sprained MCL, as the low post combo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are one of the Grizzlies’ biggest strengths.

Zach Randolph attempts a fadeaway jumper over Nick Collison. Randolph finished with 17 for the evening.

Zach Randolph attempts a fadeaway jumper over Steven Adams. Randolph finished with 17 for the evening.

The Grizzlies started okay, and even held a 10-5 lead with 7:41 to play in the 1st. Unfortunately, that was as good as it would get for them, as the Thunder answered immediately with a 16-1 run that pushed the Thunder lead to 10 (21-11) with 3:43 remaining in the opening quarter. Memphis subsequently answered with a 9-2 run that cut the Thunder lead to 3 (23-20) with 1:10 to go in the 1st. Two Kevin Durant free throws, followed by two Mike Conley free throws, put the score at 25-22, and ended the 1st with a 3-point Thunder lead.

Kevin Durant with the nasty dunk as Mike Conley and Kosta Koufos can only watch. Durant finished the game with 18 points, and Koufos dropped 12 for the Grizzlies.

Kevin Durant with the nasty dunk as Mike Conley and Kosta Koufos can only watch. Durant finished the game with 18 points, and Koufos dropped 12 for the Grizzlies.

The 2nd quarter started off beautifully for the Thunder, as a Jeremy Lamb alley oop off of a Reggie Jackson assist pushed the Thunder lead to 5 (27-22). But then the Grizzlies responded with an immediate 8-2 run that allowed them to reclaim a 1-point lead (30-29) with 10:21 to play in the first half. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, that would be the last lead they would see for the rest of the game, as Jackson reclaimed the lead for the Thunder a mere 14 seconds later off of a running jump shot. Later in the quarter, with the Thunder clinging to a mere 3-point lead (40-37) with 4:19 remaining on the clock, they spark a 17-4 run to end the first half with a 57-42 lead.

Jeremy Lamb jumps up to defend a floater from Jamaal Franklin. Lamb contributed 18 points from the Thunder bench.

Jeremy Lamb jumps up to defend a floater from Jamaal Franklin. Lamb contributed 18 points from the Thunder bench.

This time, the Thunder had no intentions of letting their opponent stick around. The Grizzlies fought as hard as they could, but the Thunder pretty much had this game locked up once they established a 24-point lead (87-63) with 2:11 to play in the 3rd. Durant, Westbrook, and Kendrick Perkins all sat out through the entirety of the 4th quarter, as their presence was no longer required to finish off the Grizzlies. Once the final buzzer sounded, the Thunder walked out of FedEx Forum with a 116-100 victory that improved their record to 17-4, while dropping the Grizzlies below .500 (10-11).

Zach Randolph looks on as Jon Leuer challenges Serge Ibaka. Ibaka finished with 12 points, and Leuer led all Grizzlies bench scorers with 17.

Zach Randolph looks on as Jon Leuer challenges Serge Ibaka. Ibaka finished with 12 points, and Leuer led all Grizzlies bench scorers with 17.

There were no double-doubles whatsoever from either side last night, but they obviously weren’t required for the Thunder. Westbrook’s 27 points led all scorers to take the floor last night, while Durant dropped 18 points, and Serge Ibaka contributed 12. 35 of the Thunder’s bench points came from just two players. Reggie Jackson posted 17 points, as Jeremy Lamb splashed in 18.

Reggie Jackson direvs past Nick Calathes. Jackson dropped 17 points coming off of the Thunder bench.

Reggie Jackson drives past Nick Calathes. Jackson dropped 17 points coming off of the Thunder bench.

Conley’s 20 points lead the Grizzlies in scoring last night, as Zach Randolph added 17. Center Kosta Koufos managed 12 points, and Jerryd Bayless, the man most NBA draft analysts expected to be picked over Westbrook, threw down 11. Jon Leuer’s 17 points led the Grizzlies in bench scoring. Although the decision to sit Ed Davis over a left ankle sprain, and Quincy Pondexter for a tarsal navicular stress fracture left the Grizzlies bench very short-handed. Most analysts agree that Pondexter is done for the season.

Jerryd Bayless goes for the floater. Bayless finished with 11 points.

Jerryd Bayless goes for the floater. Bayless finished with 11 points.

This win actually marked the first time all season that the Thunder won the second game of a back-to-back, which surprisingly makes them the last team out of all 30 NBA squads to accomplish the feat this season. It was nice to see them pull that off on the road as well.

Leuer tries for the long 2-pointer as Durant defends.

Leuer tries for the long 2-pointer as Durant defends.

Now the Thunder head back home to host the Lakers this Friday. The Lakers may not be doing particularly well at the moment, but they are still a team that always requires pre-game preparation. The game will be coming to you from Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tip-off time is 7pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and ESPN.