Thunder vs. Grizzlies preview: Great offense meets great defense

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

An opponent hasn't scored 100 points on the Grizzlies in about five weeks. Can the Thunder end that streak Wednesday night?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of three teams in the NBA that's already clinched a spot to the postseason, with the Memphis Grizzlies next in line. Reaching similar levels of success this season, the two teams have used radically different formulas to get there.

On Wednesday night, those different styles will be put to the test as Memphis hosts OKC.

Two of the best teams in the Western Conference this season, the differences between the Grizzlies and Thunder are staggering. From pace to offensive style to defensive schemes, it's difficult to find two contenders that are more dissimilar in terms of how they win games.

This season, Oklahoma City has arguably the league's best offense, tying the streaking Miami Heat with an average of 110.4 points per 100 possessions. Memphis is in a similar position defensively, currently second in the league in defensive efficiency behind the Indiana Pacers.

Neither team is one-dimensional, though, especially OKC. Despite playing a fast-paced style that fits its offense, the Thunder boast the sixth-best defensive efficiency mark in the league, only a couple points per 100 possessions behind Memphis.

The Grizzlies aren't quite as good on offense, averaging 101.3 points per 100 possessions. That's tied for 19th in the league with the Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks.

Adjust for pace, and the scoring numbers seem even more stark. One of the fastest-paced teams in the league, the Thunder average nearly 107 points per game. Memphis, the third-slowest team in the league, averages just 93.5 points per contest.

Seeing the stark difference in their respective scoring averages, one would imagine that OKC is the heavy favorite, but the Grizzlies have been playing dominant basketball of late. Still playing an elite brand of team defense, some slight improvement on the offensive end has allowed Memphis to roll through opponents in recent weeks.

Since Feb. 6, the Grizzlies have won 15 of their past 18 games. An opponent hasn't scored 100-plus points on Memphis in about five weeks.

The Grizzlies rarely tried to stop the caliber of scorers boasted by the Thunder, though. With guys that can score in bulk (Russell Westbrook), with mad efficiency (Kevin Martin) and in every way imaginable (Kevin Durant, duh), OKC is a difficult team to scheme for.

In two prior meetings this season, the Thunder scored 97 points and 106 points, respectively, against the Memphis defense. Those Grizzlies teams had Rudy Gay, but it's worth wondering just how much better he made a team that already had depth and defensive skill across the roster.

One player that could be X-factor for the Grizzlies is guard Jerryd Bayless, as Welcome to Loud City, SB Nation's Thunder blog, notes that he played well in the first two match-ups this season. Bayless could be dangerous playing off the ball with Mike Conley running the point.

Coming off a 114-104 loss to the Denver Nuggets Tuesday night, expect the Thunder to come out gunning Wednesday. If any team is prepared for that kind of offensive firepower, it's Memphis.

Wednesday's game begins at 8 p.m. ET.

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The best NBA draft prospects of March Madness

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