What began as a game of runs between the Thunder and the Grizzlies in the first half shifted in favor of Memphis in the second half. As the Thunder’s offense stalled, Memphis got out on the run to take control of the game in the third frame.
The first half of the game, while the lead wavered back and forth between the two squads, fell generally in the Thunder’s favor. On the offensive side of the ball, the Thunder found production from every person to step on the court.
For the second straight game, every single player who touched the floor for the Thunder scored before halftime as the group also dished out 15 assists. Against the number two team in the league in points in the paint, the Thunder led 32-24 in paint points after two frames with the massive contributions of Moses Brown who logged a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double before the break.
“I thought we ran offense sharp and I thought we really tried to move it and the balanced scoring and the assisting was a reflection of that,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault.
On the defensive end, the Thunder gave Memphis a taste of its own medicine in the second frame as it forced five Memphis turnovers which the group translated into 10 points. Memphis’ leading scorer in Ja Morant was held to just two points in the first 24 minutes of action on 1-of-7 from the field. This defensive trend would give the Thunder a 32-23 advantage in the second frame and result in a four-point lead going into the half.
“We kept the game in the half court and our half-court defense was really good,” said Thunder center Al Horford. “Our guys were very active, flying all over the place and really making it tough for them.”
“We were really locked in to pack the paint,” said Thunder guard Lu Dort. “They have really good drivers. Our main thing was to pack the paint and run out to shooters and I feel like we did a good job of that in the first half.”
The Thunder led by as many as 12 points with 10 minutes left to go in the third quarter. The squad erupted out of the locker room with three consecutive buckets, two of which began with a stop on the defensive end and ended with an easy basket at the rim by rookie Aleksej Pokuševski.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) March 25, 2021
Memphis weathered the Thunder’s offensive storm and responded with a furious 33-9 run to not only take the lead but take control of the game. Memphis leads the league in turnovers forced and points off of turnovers each night and in the first half, the Thunder only allowed eight points in that category. However, second half turnovers and miscues resulted in fast breaks and runouts for the Grizzlies who make a living on such opportunities and converted the Thunder’s 10 second-half turnovers into 13 extra points.
Morant, after being held to just two points in the entire first half, scored nine points in the third frame. Memphis’ lead grew as Dillon Brooks got in on the action with 11 third quarter points of his own.
“I just thought we got a little sloppy with the ball and a little sloppy and transition,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “I thought they just got way too much, with numbers. When we settled into the half court and played our defense and held them to one shot, it was really good, but we didn’t get to that enough tonight.”
“We didn’t play the whole game with the same energy,” said Pokuševski. “When they run the floor, when you don’t get back on defense, they’re a great team.”
Moses Brown made an impact on both ends of the floor on Wednesday night and that was on full display during this play in the second quarter. On one end, Brown uses his size alongside Pokuševski to force a miss by Memphis at the rim. That’s when Brown grabbed one of his 12 rebounds, kicked it out to Ty Jerome and erupted down the floor in transition.
Brown beat his defender in Jonas Valanciunas to the dunker’s spot where he was in perfect position to receive a dish from Kenrich Williams for a dunk. Valanciunas, who was out of position already, had no option to contest other than foul. The play resulted in an and-one and Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins was forced to call a timeout.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) March 25, 2021
Brown has made his presence known around the rim as he logged a 19 point, 12 rebound double-double on Wednesday night. However, the 7-foot-1 center didn’t need 48 minutes of game time to reach a double-double. It was just under the five-minute mark of the second quarter when Brown logged 10 and 10 which marked the third fastest double double recorded in a game in OKC history.
“It’s just the impact that he’s having on the game,” said Horford. “Defensively his presence is felt and rebounding-wise his presence is felt. He continues to get better finishing around the basket. I’ve just been very impressed with him, how composed he stays, how willing he is to learn.”
“The main thing we had to do is get back and we didn’t really do a good job of that in the second half but we’ll go back, watch film and get better.”
“When we settled into the half court and played our defense and held them to one shot, it was really good, but we didn’t get to that enough tonight.”
— FOX Sports Oklahoma (@FOXSportsOK) March 25, 2021
The Thunder will enjoy a rare two-day respite from games before continuing its four-game homestand with a matchup over the weekend against the Celtics. The Saturday tilt will tip off at 8 p.m. CT and will air on FOX Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.