Grizzlies-Thunder Preview


Not since their first season after relocating from Seattle have the Oklahoma City Thunder lost four straight games, and it was during that same stretch that their fans last saw them play so poorly at home.

On the verge of their longest losing streak in nearly five years, the Thunder look to end their slump by beating the surging Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Oklahoma City (43-15) has the best record in the Western Conference and won 23 of its first 26 contests at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Defensive inconsistency, though, has contributed to the Thunder dropping the first three of a six-game homestand and bringing them to the brink of their first four-game skid since April 3-8, 2009.

Part of that losing streak came during a six-game home slump from March 18-April 7, and they haven't lost four in a row at home since.

While losses to Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers may not have been particularly concerning for the Thunder, falling 114-104 to Cleveland on Wednesday was a considerable surprise. Oklahoma City has allowed 106.1 points per game over its last seven after ranking seventh in scoring defense (97.4 ppg) through its first 51 games.

''No one in the locker room, including myself, feels good about it,'' coach Scott Brooks said. ''The exciting thing is we know we can do better. We just have to maximize our potential.

"Defensively we're not getting after it enough. We just have to keep focusing on that end and it will turn back around for us."

Kevin Durant had 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, Russell Westbrook had 24 points and nine assists and Serge Ibaka added 16 points and 13 rebounds against Cleveland.

"We just have to figure it out," Durant said. "We have to help everybody else out and figure out what we're doing wrong out there. ... We just have to focus on the next game."

The Thunder won nine straight at home before their current funk, including an 86-77 win over Memphis on Feb. 3 as they allowed their second-fewest points of the season.

Durant finished with 31 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in that contest to help the Thunder win for the second time in three meetings this season. Memphis had won four of the last six matchups in Oklahoma City, including two victories in last year's conference semifinal series that the Grizzlies won in five games.

"You know it's always going to be a good game," said Memphis big man Marc Gasol, who had 13 points in the last meeting. "Playing over there, you know the place is going to be packed, fans are going to get into it and it's going to feel like a playoff game. We enjoy that."

The Grizzlies (32-24) have won five of six overall after beating the Los Angeles Lakers 108-103 on Wednesday. Gasol finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Courtney Lee scored a team-high 18 points.

Tony Allen, playing in his third game after missing 21 with a hand injury, had 17 points off the bench. Memphis led by as many as 22 before the Lakers made a late push in the second half.

''It was an interesting game,'' coach Dave Joerger said. ''Good energy from our first group. Good energy from our second group. We were in attack mode.''

Memphis has allowed 84.9 points per game on the road since Jan. 5 - 8.5 fewer than the NBA's next-best team in that stretch.