After suffering through a dreadful 0-13 shooting performance against the Memphis Grizzlies (3-6) back on December 28th, Russell Westrbook bounced back with 30 points on 12-20 shooting, 6 rebounds and 4 assists that paced the Oklahoma City Thunder (9-2) in a 100-95 road win on Tuesday night. The game remained extremely close for the entire night, as the Thunder outscored the Grizzlies in every quarter but never managed anything more than an eight-point advantage they held near the end of the third quarter. Scott Brooks' group has feasted on timely stops so far this season, and improved to a perfect 7-0 record when holding opponents under 100 points with the win in Memphis.
Much like Westrbook, Grizzlies' center Marc Gasol also entered the game determined to erase the memory of a poor performance. In response to a disappointing 0-9 night shooting during the team's recent loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Gasol exploded for his fourth double-double of the season (20 points on 8-16 shooting, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks). When the Thunder opted to defend him with single-coverage by Kendrick Perkins in isolation sets, Gasol operated comfortably and thrived on a variety of post moves. At one point during the fourth quarter when he beat Perkins for baskets twice in less than two minutes of game time, cameras caught him confidently yelling "can't stop me, man" as he ran back on defense following a smooth running hook shot.
After the big man's gutsy declaration with 4:39 remaining in the game, the Grizzlies almost immediately stopped feeding him the ball. He attempted (and missed) only one more shot for the rest of the night even though the game remained very close. When the team absolutely needed a bucket while trailing 95-92 with 29.7 seconds remaining, Lionel Hollins turned to Rudy Gay and got burned. Gay received the in-bounds pass and worked high pick-and-roll with Gasol, but dribbled into a double-team by Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha in the right corner and turned the ball over without even getting off a shot. He finished the game with 16 points on 7-21 shooting.
As the Grizzlies neglected to feed their post threat, the Thunder let their hot hand close out the game. Westbrook scored the next five points for Oklahoma City following Gasol's declaration, to push the margin to 95-89, and hit a free throw while icing the game to help the team reach the century mark in the 100-95 win. Kevin Durant added 22 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists in the victory, while rookie point guard Reggie Jackson contributed only 4 points and zero assists replacing injured backup guard, Eric Maynor. The Thunder have now won four straight games, while the Grizzlies are suffering through a three-game losing streak.