The Memphis Grizzlies travel to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night live on ESPN at 8 P.M. ET. Memphis won the first matchup between the teams on December 29, 114-80. Here's everything else that you need to know going into the game.
The previous meeting was the worst offensive performance by the Thunder this season. The Grizzlies limited the Thunder to their fewest points, lowest field-goal percentage and handed them their biggest defeat of the year. The Grizzlies, conversely, were led by Marc Gasol’s 25 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks (a season high) and had Zach Randolph and Troy Daniels both score 20 points off the bench. Russell Westbrook was ejected after playing only 23 minutes and without recording an assist. That was his first game without an assist since November 8, 2013, against the Detroit Pistons.
Westbrook has struggled against the Grizzlies throughout his career. They are one of six teams that Westbrook has not recorded a triple-double against and are tied with the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz with 27 games without allowing one. The Grizzlies are one of six teams that Westbrook averages less than 20 PPG against, though his 19.9 PPG could easily rise above that threshold with a big performance.
The matchup to watch will be in the paint. The Thunder lead the NBA averaging 50.6 points in the paint per game while the Grizzlies allow the fewest (36.7 PPG).
Memphis picked up what should be one of its marquee victories of the season when it beat the Golden State Warriors last week after trailing by 19 points in the fourth quarter. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the second time in NBA history that a team won a road game in which it trailed by 19 points against the team with the best record in the NBA at that time. The only other time? When the Philadelphia Warriors, led by Wilt Chamberlain, defeated Bill Russell's Boston Celtics on February 9, 1962.
During the Grizzlies' current two-game winning streak, they have discovered -- or rediscovered -- a winning combination in Gasol and Randolph. While the pair has allowed 108.3 points per 100 possessions this season (compared to the team's 101.4 number overall), Gasol and Randolph have combined to make a huge difference over the past two games.
Randolph hasn't been the only success story off the bench for Memphis. Daniels has emerged as a key bench piece with his shooting. Between Randolph (13.5 PPG) and Daniels (11.1 PPG), the Grizzlies are one of three teams that have two or more 10-plus PPG scorers off the bench.
The Thunder's league-leading 50.6 points in the paint per game are evenly distributed. Westbrook's 10.8 points in the paint per game lead all guards while Steven Adams and Enes Kanter average 10.1 and 9.4 points respectively. That gives the Thunder the only trio of teammates averaging over 9.0 such points per game in the league. As good as the Thunder are at scoring inside, they struggle just as much shooting outside. Oklahoma City's 32.9 3-point percentage is second-worst in the NBA, with the only Chicago Bulls' 31.6 percent worse.
We don't need to tell you how ridiculous Westbrook has been this season, but here's are few reminders. He already has 17 triple-doubles and four other games in which he was one point, rebound or assist away from one. Thirty-nine games into this season, he's still averaging a triple-double for the third longest stretch into a season in which a player has done so, notes the Elias Sports Bureau. The two seasons above Westbrook's both belong to Oscar Robertson. That includes his 1961-62 season, in which he averaged a triple-double for the entire season. The Thunder are 14-3 in games in which Westbrook has a triple-double. In his career, he has the third-highest winning percentage in games in which he has a triple-double (.870), behind John Havliceck (.885) and Chamberlain (.871). Finally, he leads the NBA in several scoring categories:
Beyond Westbrook, two of the Thunder's big men are providing solid production. Kanter has been one of the most valuable bench players in the league. His nine double-doubles as a reserve are second this season to Orlando's Nikola Vucevic, who has 10. Adams has heated up since Christmas. In his first 30 games, he averaged 11.3 PPG; in the nine games since, he has been scoring 15.3 PPG on 67 percent shooting from the floor.