By Ron Wynn
The Memphis Grizzlies arrived in Oklahoma City with a revamped and depleted roster and were blown out by the Thunder 106-89.
Former All-Star forward Rudy Gay was traded earlier as part of a blockbuster, three-team deal, and none of the new players the Grizzlies acquired had passed physicals. So they only had nine players available, and weren’t able to overcome the OKC’s offensive push.
The new Grizzlies starting lineup included Jerryd Bayless playing at small forward in place of Gay. Zach Randolph had his second straight subpar game, missing his first 10 shots from the floor, and finishing with just nine points. He did have 19 rebounds. Bayless was the Grizzlies’ leading scorer with 23.
Memphis previously dealt away Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby for Jon Leuer to get under the luxury tax threshold. Neither Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye or Ed Davis were in uniform Thursday, and Quincy Pondexter was out with a sprained ligament. Leuer played only the final five minutes.
“We couldn’t make no shots,” Randolph told the Associated Press. “The double-team was packing in on the paint. We’ve just got to open it up and I’ve got to hit shots. We’ve got to hit shots from the outside, open it up, and let us play a little bit.”
It didn’t help matters that OKC was playing their first home game after a six-game road trip, or that they hit their first nine straight shots. The Grizzlies had a season-low 34-point first half, and shot only 26 percent. Meanwhile, the Thunder was decimating their defense, shooting 61 percent and scoring 58 points.
Indeed, the Grizzlies got back in the game due to an internal OKC breakdown, not their own play. Point guard Russell Westbrook got into an open dispute with both teammates and his coach in the third quarter, an outburst that saw him eventually taken out. The Grizzlies then scored 10 straight points to put themselves back in the game.
But Westbrook returned to action in the fourth quarter, and his pull-up jumper, plus an assist to Kevin Martin for a three-pointer, got OKC ahead 86-69 with 9:32 remaining.
“The first half, we were a little flat, a little shell-shocked,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins told the Associated Press. “Everybody was trying to do too much. You had guys who just didn’t make any shots in the first half. But the second half, we played our game.”
“We’re an emotional group,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said in defending his player afterwards. “Our guys are always playing with a competitive spirit. That’s what makes us a competitive team for the last three or four years.”
Grizzlies fans await the arrival of the new players, and are anxious to see whether this deal disrupts the chemistry and balance of a team that’s enjoyed its best first half in franchise history.
Photo By: nba.com