Memphis Grizzlies vs Oklahoma City Thunder: Lineups, preview & prediction 4/11/18
Westbrook needs 16 rebounds to average a triple-double for the 2017/18 season – can he do it? Oh, and the Grizzlies are playing too.
The Thunder are locked in a tie with the Spurs and the Pelicans at 47-34 in the west. They are in seventh, but a win here could see them catapult as high as fifth. Importantly, given New Orleans and San Antonio play each other tomorrow, a win in this game guarantees the Thunder will finish no lower than sixth, subsequently avoiding the Warriors or the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. Conversely, a loss would see them drop to eighth and face Houston in round one.
OKC will be confident of gaining a win though, given they are hosting the lowly Grizzlies. Memphis have the second-worst record in the NBA and are in 14th place in the west, sitting ahead of only Phoenix. Regardless of the result, they will remain in that position, giving them the second-best chance at the number one draft pick.
Three keys to the game
Westbrook chasing history – Russell Westbrook needs 16 rebounds in this game to average a triple-double for the second consecutive year, and you can be sure he’ll do everything in his power to get it. Expect the likes of Adams and George to stay away from the glass and allow Russ to gobble up everything within reach as he chases the target. He had 18 rebounds in his last outing, so 16 should be well within his capabilities.
George’s shooting woes – Paul George’s shot has been a little off-kilter for a while now, and the Thunder will need him to recapture his best form at some point if they want to compete against the best teams in the west. For the season George is shooting 42.7% from the field, around his career average, and 39.7% from deep, above his career average. Since the All-Star break though, his game has taken a turn for the worse. In 22 games he is shooting just 37% from the field, and 30.2% from downtown and he hasn’t shot at over 50% from the field since the last time these sides met, on February 14.
MarShon Brooks – This isn’t something many people would have expected to be a factor ever again in an NBA game, but Brooks has been good since joining the Grizzlies. Granted, he is enjoying playing against several teams who don’t care about the result, but in his six games this season he is still putting up an impressive 22 points on 52.2% shooting, hitting a huge 60% of his 3-point attempts, and contributing 3.8 assists and 1.5 blocks.
Matchup to watch
Kobi Simmons vs Russell Westbrook – This matchup will be entertaining purely to see Westbrook go after every rebound available. The triple-double machine is this season averaging 25.6 points, 10.1 assists, and 9.9 rebounds. Realistically the difference between 9.9 rebounds and 10.0 rebounds over the course of the season is negligible, but Westbrook cares about achieving the goal, and why wouldn’t he? He may be a flawed player but it is an impressive feat and given this game will be a walk in the park for the Thunder he might as well go for it. The inexperienced Simmons won’t exactly pose too much of an outside threat, meaning Westbrook can hang a little in the lane, in a prime position to get all the rebounds he can.
Oklahoma City Thunder predicted starting lineup
PG – Russell Westbrook | SG – Corey Brewer | SF – Paul George | PF – Carmelo Anthony | C – Steven Adams
Memphis Grizzlies predicted starting lineup
PG – Kobi Simmons | SG – Ben McLemore | SF – Dillon Brooks | PF – Ivan Rabb | C – Marc Gasol
Westbrook has triple-doubled in both games he has played against Memphis this season, though not always in the most efficient of ways. The first saw him shoot 7-for-29 from the field and 1-for-12 from deep for 20 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists, though he only turned it over three times. In the most recent game he had 23 points, 13 rebounds, 15 assists, a steal and two blocks.
George has been dangerous in his two games against the Grizzlies in 2018. He scored 33 points in the first and 28 in the second, and has connected on a combined 11-for-19 3-point attempts in the two outings.
The Thunder have been given a 15.5 point handicap, and though they’ll win it easily, this hurdle might be a little too hard to jump. They should have the game sewn up relatively early, and though Westbrook might play extra minutes to get his 16 rebounds, the second unit will probably get a lot of minutes in the second half. This will enable Memphis to keep it under 16 points, so back the Grizzlies at the line.
Though there is a lot at stake in terms of playoff positioning in this game, much of the interest, for stat lovers at least, will lie on Westbrook. OKC will have no problems winning the game itself and subsequently avoiding the Rockets and the Warriors in round one, and once this becomes clear, the game will become a battle for Russell to get his rebounds. Expect Adams to contribute less than five rebounds as he leaves everything to his point guard, and Westbrook to contribute a triple-double consisting of over 16 boards. OKC will run out easy winners in this one heading to the playoffs with a 110-98 victory.
The game will be broadcast locally on FS Oklahoma and Fox Sports Southeast. Tip-off is at 8pm ET.