The Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder have been natural rivals over the past few years due in large part to their clash of styles. The Memphis grit-and-grind approach and OKC high-scoring attack are easily cast as opposites, and the team able to enforce its style on the game usually has a great chance of winning.
It would stand to reason, then, that a contest that finishes with 236 points between the two would benefit the Thunder. But it was the Grizzlies who won Monday's game at FedEx Forum by a score of 122-114.
Surprisingly, they did it with outside shooting, an area in which the Grizzlies have lagged far behind the rest of the NBA for the past few years. Coming into Monday shooting just 29.1 percent from beyond the arc with 5.2 makes per game, Memphis made 12-of-17 triples to make for an especially efficient offensive performance on a night that demanded it. The team's Memphis Sounds ABA throwback jerseys, already fantastic, have never looked better.
The big star was a relatively new addition to the Grizzlies roster — veteran point guard Mario Chalmers. Playing in only his third game for the club after last week's trade from the Miami Heat, Chalmers shot 6-of-13 from the field but added 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and 13-of-15 from the line for a team-high 29 points. Chalmers has now scored in double figures in each of his games with Memphis and not yet shot worse than 50 percent on threes (though he had only five attempts combined in the previous two appearances). The stats look pretty good:
So Chalmers now has 56 points on just 23 FGA in 3 games w/ the Grizzlies.
— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) November 17, 2015
His longest tenured Heat teammate was very impressed:
Proud big bro iam. @mchalmers15 way to take that champion swagger to Memphis lil bro..
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) November 17, 2015
Chalmers wasn't alone in performing well for the Grizzlies. Mike Conley added 22 points on 4-of-5 shooting from deep (part of 8-of-15 overall) with nine assists; Marc Gasol put up 17 points, six rebounds, and six assists; and every non-Tony Allen starter scored in double figures. But Chalmers adds a much-needed facet to the team even if he's very unlikely to continue playing at this level over the next few months. A squad that seriously needed outside shooting now has another threat and the Grizzlies have new hope because of it.
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The Thunder, on the other hand, are rediscovering what it's like to play without Kevin Durant. As the injured superstar continues to wait out his dinged-up hamstring, OKC relied on Russell Westbrook to create virtually everything. He played the role very well, just as he has many times before — 40 points (13-of-19 FG, 5-of-8 3FG, 9-of-13 FT), 14 assists, and three steals. There was also plenty of offensive help — four others scored at least 14 points. And Waiters only made this extremely goofy play once:
The problem for Oklahoma City is that their defense continues to look sub-stellar. While the Grizzlies deserve lots of credit for Monday's fine showing, they're not a team that can expect to score 122 points — 43 in the fourth quarter! — with any kind of regularity. Durant's return will obviously help matters, but the Thunder and head coach Billy Donovan have lots of questions to answer after only 11 games.
The Grizzlies will not rest on the laurels of one night in mid-November, but they've now won three in a row and sit at 6-6 after losing two of their first four games by 30 and 50 points, respectively. They don't play again until Friday's matchup with the seriously slumping Rockets.
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