The Oklahoma City Thunder were short-handed, as they have been for most of the year, in this game against Memphis. The Thunder were without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Foot), Darius Bazley (Shoulder), George Hill (Thumb), and Josh Hall (knee). Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has a “more significant injury” and will be out longer than the typical day-to-day he has been listed as throughout parts of this season.
This game continued to go back and forth, as most games do, even as the Thunder missed their best player they were ahead at the end of the first half. A half that included Memphis growing a nine-point lead (OKC’s largest was eight), 14 lead changes, and the game all tied up four different times. The two could not have played a closer game if they tried.
The story of this first half goes to Moses Brown, who once again collected another first-half double-double. Brown has been a special addition to this team since rejoining the big league club after his time in the NBA G-League Bubble. We will have an article tomorrow morning on Moses Brown right here on Bricktown Buckets, and this game shows why. The UCLA product posted ten points, ten rebounds, two blocks, and a steal in the first half all while not being charged with a foul. An area that at times can harm inexperienced bigs.
Al Horford was put on triple-double watch in that first half, posting 11-points, six rebounds, and six assists in the first half of basketball. Horford even showed off a fancy finish with a euro lay-up at the rim. All that rest certainly paid off for the veteran big-man, in what potentially could be his final game as a member of the Thunder. However, not many, if anyone, expects OKC to find a trade partner for Horford before tomorrow’s 2 p.m. NBA Trade Deadline.
The Thunder played opportunistic defense against Memphis, playing the passing lanes well and capitalizing on sloppy play from the Grizzlies, it eventually ended in an Aleksej Pokusevski dunk that looked like the logo for Jordan Brand.
That sparked a great half from Aleksej Pokusevski who is showing flashes every handful of games of what he can be. An athletic play-making 7-footer who at times can shoot, can drive, and finish, as well as set up his teammates. A rare combination of talent if and when he puts it all together, as the youngest player in the NBA, he has time. As he steps into a starting role since the G-League Bubble ended, this is why the Thunder have constructed the roster like this. To give Aleksej Pokusevski time to grow and learn and maybe, just maybe, expedite the development process. One this is certain, Poku is fun to watch. If you enjoy his game now, just give it roughly four years, wait to see what he can become. The possibilities are endless, it is why Sam Presti took the home run swing.
After the Thunder few a 12-point lead in the third frame, the Grizzlies came roaring back, swinging the game all the way into their favor with an 18-2 run.
At the four-minute mark in the third, Memphis vaunted young guard Ja Morant produced just four points. That was of course attributed to Lu Dort’s suffocating defense. With SGA out, Dort took on more of that leadership role despite being in just his second year, and still a handful of games away from his 82nd NBA contest, he did it all for OKC tonight.
Lu Dort finished with 14-points, two blocks, three steals, infinity deflected passes, three assists, and three rebounds.
Memphis entered the fourth frame with a nine-point lead, and quickly got this to a double-digit contest, but turnovers again hurt Memphis, as they tossed around their 14th at the word go in the final frame. Despite that, Memphis captured their largest lead of the night at the ten-minute mark, going in front by 14.
From there, the Grizzlies never looked back and put a bow on their win as the Thunder start their homestand with a loss.
All eyes are now on the trade deadline tomorrow afternoon as the Thunder will not be in action again until Saturday against the Boston Celtics.