Game Recap: Thunder Vs. Grizzlies

OKC sprinted through the finish line after trailing by as many as 18 points against the Grizzlies. With less than a minute left, the Thunder turned a double-digit deficit down to just six points to extend the game and put pressure on the team with the second-best record in the league. Behind the career-night of Darius Bazley and an electric fourth-quarter effort, the Thunder put on an entertaining show in front of its home crowd.

It was a slightly delayed start to the final matchup of the season between the Thunder and the Grizzlies. After lineups were announced, the players removed their warmups to reveal that both teams were sporting all-white uniforms creating instant confusion. With the help of the referees, the two squads quickly sorted out the matter resulting in Memphis retreating to their locker room and returning to the court in their blue uniforms. 

Once the game finally tipped off, Memphis shot out to a surging offensive start. As advertised, the bulk of the Grizzlies’ early scoring came from inside the paint and in transition which led to a blistering 38-point performance in the first quarter to take a lead of as many as 15 points over the Thunder. 

OKC responded in the second frame with a 7-0 run to shave the lead down to just eight points mid way through the frame. A mixture of sharpshooting by two-way guard Lindy Waters III and an intensified defensive effort by the Thunder help shift the tides of momentum back in OKC’s favor. By the end of the frame, the Thunder trailed by just seven points and had outscored the Grizzlies 28-23 in the frame. 

Memphis responded to OKC’s run with one of its own to build up a lead of as many as 18 points which would ultimately be the theme for the night. Each time the Thunder chipped away to bring the margin to arm’s reach, Memphis pulled away behind a second-chance opportunity or a bucket at the rim to balloon the lead back to a comfortable distance. 

It wasn’t until the final minute of the fourth quarter that the Thunder made it a two-possession ball game. It was a 13-5 Thunder run fueled by Darius Bazley and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who posted 12 and 11 points respectively in the frame. Theo Maledon sank a corner 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to make it a six-point ball game, but missed opportunities in the following possessions coupled with Memphis free throws kept the Thunder out of reach at the final buzzer. 

“We hung in there,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “I thought there were a couple times where the game could have gotten away from us and we made some big plays to get ourselves back in it and give ourselves a chance.”

The Thunder received massive contributions from two-way guard Lindy Waters III who tied a career high with 16 points and four-made 3-pointers. The four triples marked 15 3-pointers for the rookie during the month of March which ties for the third most of all rookies in the league. 

But it wasn’t just the 3-point line where Waters found success against the Grizzlies. When Memphis realized that Waters was a threat from behind the arc, the team made the adjustment by closing out harder on his catches. When that happened, the Oklahoma native simply used the fly-by moves he had been working on all season long, even with the G-League and opened up several open layups at the rim.

“Really just being ready to shoot and find an open window,” said Waters III. “I’ve got great playmaking teammates in Shai and Theo and Bazley and everybody. They’re the ones that give me the shots. I’m just in an open area, ready to shoot. So shout out to them.”

Thunder forward Darius Bazley made his mark all over the floor against the Grizzlies. Of his career-high 29 points, 16 of them came in the paint, nine of them from the 3-point line, four at the free throw line and five on second chance points. Whether it was getting out in transition, putting his head down attacking the rim or stepping confidently into a 3-point shot, Bazley demonstrated the various ways he can impact the game offensively while also pulling down 10 rebounds – his fifth double-double of the season. 

“He’s a versatile player on both ends and I thought offensively tonight there was some versatility to him. He did it a lot of different ways,” said Daigneault. “Those are skills that we work on with him and that needs to be a part of his game and it happened so that they resulted in points for him tonight.”

“Just trying to make quick decisions and be confident whatever I do,” said Bazley. 

“That first quarter really killed us. It was hard trying to fight your way back into that, you kind of need a lot of things to happened for us and a lot of stuff for them not to fall and stuff like that. They’re really good team, obviously. So coming out from the jump, we’ve got to be a little bit better but I thought we did a good job of just staying together and trying to will our way back into it.”—Darius Bazley on the fight of the team

It’s a short turnaround for the Thunder who returns to Paycom Center again on Monday night to close out a back-to-back against the Charlotte Hornets.