OKC Thunder: Matchup with Grizzlies could test what Thunder learned during playoffs

During last season's semifinals, Oklahoma City grew up against a physical Memphis team. Wednesday marks the first time the teams have met since Game 7.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 27, 2011

Both teams return rosters from last season that remained largely intact. The Thunder waived Nate Robinson. Memphis lost Shane Battier in free agency to Miami and traded reserve point guard Greviez Vasquez to New Orleans. The Grizzlies also lost Darrell Arthur for the season to an Achilles injury.

Just about everything and everyone is the same, which could test what the Thunder has learned.

Against Gasol, Perkins will now look to duplicate the same dominant defense he displayed in the Thunder's opening games against Orlando and center Dwight Howard and Minnesota and center Darko Milicic. Last year, Gasol had a monster playoff series against the Thunder, averaging 15.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.7 blocks while shooting 49.3 percent.

Collison and Serge Ibaka, meanwhile, will get another crack at Zach Randolph, who averaged 22.8 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and one block on 40.6 percent shooting against OKC.

“They're going to try to try to get the ball inside every possession with their two bigs,” Collison said. “Zach and Gasol are a load down there. You have to really be able to keep them off the backboard and fight with them on every possession.”

Although Battier signed with the Heat, Kevin Durant must again contend with Tony Allen, who gave the scoring leader fits last year. The Grizzlies also have forward Rudy Gay back after he missed the regular season's final 25 games and the entire postseason with a shoulder injury. Gay, who scored 19 points with 10 rebounds in the Grizzlies opener at San Antonio on Monday, will test Durant's defensive improvement as well.

The Russell Westbrook-Mike Conley matchup last year was not the mismatch most thought it would have been, as Conley ran his team effectively and controlled the pace while making few mistakes. And of course, there's the bench matchup to keep an eye on. It will be highlighted by James Harden and O.J. Mayo going head to head.

“It's going to be a battle,” Collison said. “We got a ton of respect for that team.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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Thunder at Grizzlies

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: FedExForum, Memphis

TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722).

Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM

Three things to know

* The Thunder is coming off a 104-100 win at Minnesota on Monday night.

* Memphis forward Rudy Gay has returned to the Grizzlies' lineup after missing the final 25 games and the entire postseason last year with a separated shoulder.

* Thunder forward Kevin Durant averaged 30.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and three assists against the Grizzlies last season. Durant has scored at least 30 plus points in both of the Thunder's first two games this year.

Projected starters

Thunder (2-0)

Pos.; Player; Ht.; Pts.; Reb.; Ast.

G; Russell Westbrook; 6-3; 21.0; 6.5; 6.0

G; Thabo Sefolosha; 6-7; 6.0; 4.0; 0.0

F; Kevin Durant; 6-9; 31.5; 5.0; 4.5

F; Serge Ibaka; 6-10; 3.0; 6.0; 0.5

C; Kendrick Perkins; 6-10; 5.0; 6.0; 1.0

Grizzlies (0-1)

Pos.; Player; Ht.; Pts.; Reb.; Ast.

G; Mike Conley; 6-1; 11.0; 3.0; 7.0

G; Tony Allen; 6-4; 2.0; 4.0; 0.0

F; Rudy Gay; 6-8; 19.0; 10.0; 2.0

F; Zach Randolph; 6-9; 10.0; 6.0; 1.0

C; Marc Gasol; 7-1; 13.0; 6.0; 3.0

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