MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The feeling is foreign.
Only once before has the Oklahoma City Thunder experienced it, so long ago it had become more of a forgotten memory.
A visit to Memphis on Tuesday night, though, restored the reality of a losing streak.
The Thunder dropped a 110-105 decision to Memphis inside FedEx Forum and snapped a streak of 10 straight wins following a loss. Oklahoma City fell to 23-13 and 10-2 in games that followed a loss.
The Thunder's only other losing streak came on Nov. 3 after a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers followed a blowout defeat against Utah.
“I'm disappointed in the loss, but I understand this is what we go through,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “In an NBA season, you're going to have some highs and some lows. We've lost two games in a row, but our guys have been resilient all year and they bounce back.”
That task could be tougher this time around.
Of the Thunder's 10 wins that followed a loss, six victories came against teams that are currently below .500. Only three of the wins came against teams that currently sit more than one game above .500 — Utah, New Orleans and Denver.
Now, the Thunder is entrenched in its most difficult month of the season. Up next for Oklahoma City is road-trip finale at Dallas against an injury-plagued but still-dangerous Mavs squad before a rematch with these Grizzlies on Saturday inside Oklahoma City Arena. The Thunder also plays road games against Houston, the L.A. Lakers, Denver, New Orleans and Minnesota this month. Other home games include Orlando, New York, Washington and Miami.
“We got to stay positive,” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. “We can't come in saying we're going through a tough stretch.”
The Thunder's play said it all in the second straight game. After a 25-point throttling at San Antonio on Saturday — the worst loss of the season — the Thunder couldn't contain the Grizzlies from being just as effective in many of the same areas that led the Spurs to their rout. The only difference Tuesday was the Thunder had enough offense to stay close.
But Memphis manhandled the Thunder inside, scoring 54 points in the paint and winning the offensive-rebounding game, 12-3. Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph had 31 points and 16 rebounds, both game highs, and helped Memphis outscore OKC 18-8 in second-chance points.
“Zach's a good player,” said Jeff Green, who matched up against Randolph much of the night and was held without a rebound while being limited to eight points on 1-for-5 shooting in 41 minutes. “He's been doing it all year. It's not just tonight that he got off.”
Another strange sighting was the Thunder walking off the court on the wrong end of a close game. OKC fell to 12-3 in games decided by five points or less and uncharacteristically failed to capitalize on a major missed opportunity inside the final 30 seconds.
Memphis center Marc Gasol missed two free throws and a chance to put Memphis up five with 25.2 seconds left. Russell Westbrook made a layup at the other end to pull the Thunder within 106-105 with 16 seconds remaining. Westbrook immediately fouled Grizzlies guard Tony Allen on the inbounds, and Allen made both free throws to put Memphis back ahead by three.
Following a timeout, Durant caught an inbounds pass and launched a 31-foot 3-pointer that missed badly. Randolph secured the rebound and iced the game with a pair of free throws. Durant said he launched the heave because he thought the Grizzlies would foul to prevent a game-tying 3-pointer.
“It's going to be tough for me to sleep tonight,” Durant said.