Memphis basketball fans can take a deep breath. The Grizzlies finally cracked the win column with a 121-92 blowout victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday afternoon.
The Thunder sprinted out of the gates with energy, jumping out to a 37-25 lead on the Grizz at the end of the first quarter. After 12 minutes to feel out the game and find their legs, the Grizzlies answered the bell going on an 11-2 run to open the second quarter – albeit without Ja Morant.
As the buzzer sounded for halftime, the Grizzlies found themselves ahead on the scoreboard by the count of 63-60. Due to Jonas Valanciunas picking up his third foul with over six minutes remaining in the half, backup center Gorgui Dieng was thrown into action early. Dieng led the Grizzlies in the opening half with 12 points followed by Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks, who tallied 11 points a piece.
Gorgui Dieng I DID NOT KNOW HE COULD DO THIS pic.twitter.com/gVCNKKoLZS
— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) August 7, 2020
The Grizzlies shot 56 percent from the floor in the half compared to just 41 percent from the Thunder. Memphis’ lead could have been much more if it wasn’t for 10 first-half turnovers.
A combination of tenacious defense and poor shooting powered the Grizzlies to a dominating second half. After putting up a 37-spot on the Grizz in the first quarter, Oklahoma City managed just 32 points in the entire second half. That matched the total Memphis scored in the third quarter alone.
Memphis outscored the Thunder in the second half 58-32 allowing the injury-ridden Grizzlies to coast to their first bubble win.
Dillon Brooks led all scorers with 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Morant followed up with 19 points and nine dimes. Valanciunas added a fourth straight double-double effort with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
The reserves played a vital role in Friday’s win contributing 46 points to the Grizzlies’ total. Brandon Clarke had 12 points, connecting on all six field-goal attempts. Dieng added 12 points and Grayson Allen dropped 11 points behind a 3-for-8 effort from behind the arc.
Grizz vs Thunder
FG%: 55% vs 35%
Rebounds: 58 vs 36
Paint pts: 56 vs 36
2nd chance pts: 20 vs 8
DB: 22 pts, 6rb, 4as
JA: 19pts, 9as, 4reb
JV: 19pts, 11reb
— Kelcey Jordan Wright Johnson (@kelwright) August 7, 2020
This win was particularly important for Memphis because the San Antonio Spurs, who entered the day two games back in the standings, picked up a win against the depleted Utah Jazz in the first game of the day.
With three games remaining for the Grizzlies, they currently sit one game ahead of the scalding hot Portland Trail Blazers, who are 3-1 in the bubble. The Phoenix Suns have found life in the bubble raising eyebrows with a 4-0 start in Orlando and are just 2.5 games behind the Grizzlies for that coveted eight seed.
The Grizz are back in action on Sunday afternoon at 1 CST as a date with the Toronto Raptors awaits.
Featured image courtesy of Kim Clement/ USA Today Sports