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3-6

Thunder-Grizzlies Preview

AP - Sports

With 66 games in just four months, each NBA team will have to play on three consecutive days at least once.

The Oklahoma City Thunder were the first to sweep a set of back-to-back-to-back games, and they did so with their starters getting plenty of rest.

The Western Conference leaders return to action Tuesday night after a day off, going for a fourth consecutive victory and trying to hand the host Memphis Grizzlies a season-high third straight defeat.

The lockout cut more than a month off the original regular-season schedule, but only 16 games were eliminated and that led to the NBA having teams play more on back-to-back nights and once in three straight. The Thunder (8-2) have had one of the most hectic early schedules, tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for games played heading into Monday's action.

Oklahoma City gets back to work following Sunday's 108-96 victory over San Antonio. The Thunder, who swept a home-and-home set versus Houston heading into that contest, became the first team this season to win three games in three nights.

Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Sacramento and the Lakers all failed in their attempts.

"I knew our guys were going to compete and they were going to give everything they had for the three games. You were hoping that you could win them all," coach Scott Brooks said.

"Fortunately for us, we did."

Even more fortunate for the Thunder was that all five starters averaged fewer than 30.7 minutes during that span. In two of the games, no one played more than 29 minutes.

They'd like for that trend to continue, especially with a trip to New Orleans after this game to face the Hornets on Wednesday.

Kevin Durant would like to get off to a better start than in the team's last visit to Memphis, a 98-95 victory on Dec. 28 when he missed six of his first seven shots before finishing with 32 points.

Zach Randolph had 24 points and 12 rebounds in that matchup - the teams' first since Oklahoma City's seven-game series win in the West semifinals - but he is likely out for at least another six weeks with a torn MCL.

The Grizzlies (3-5) have failed to score more than 90 points or shoot better than 42 percent in all four games since losing Randolph, and they were outrebounded by 19 in Sunday's 90-82 road loss to the Lakers. Memphis is 2-2 without Randolph.

"We don't have one of our best post-up players," coach Lionel Hollins said. "You know we're fishing in who we can go with."

Center Marc Gasol has averaged 11.8 rebounds since Randolph's injury but has failed to score in double figures in two of the last three games. Plus, the Grizzlies' 3-point shooting has been awful, making a league-worst 20.0 percent after missing eight of nine Sunday.

They were 2 of 16 last month against the Thunder, who won despite Russell Westbrook having the worst shooting game of his career. He missed all 13 of his field-goal attempts and scored a season-low four points.

Rookie Reggie Jackson is backing up Westbrook after point guard Eric Maynor was lost for the season to a torn ACL on Saturday. Jackson had season highs with 11 points and four assists Sunday.

"It just shows you the depth that we have on this team," said James Harden, averaging 20.5 points in the past four games.

Since the loss to the Thunder, Memphis has shot 55.6 percent while winning its last two home games by a combined 37 points.

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