The Thunder join the party

The Oklahoma team, in full reconstruction, defeats the Grizzlies and gets fully involved in the fierce fight of the West.


They are all there. Or almost all, since the disaster of the Timberwolves and a losing streak that lasts forever in Houston leaves those two franchises out of a fight, that of the playoffs, which continues with 13 members for only eight places. The play-in will give a final shot to two more teams, but the string of candidates is still huge for such a small space. And in that battle, fierce from the first day, the Thunder appear that have beaten a direct rival like Memphis and are four victories away from the playoffs. It may seem like a lot, but there were the Rockets a month ago and since then they have added 15 consecutive losses that have left them without options. A losing streak, or a very good one, can provide an opportunity that is less likely to be fulfilled in OKC or the Grizzlies. And even less Pelicans and Kings, who do not finish hitting the key. A concatenation of bad games by any of these four teams would clarify the fight in favor of Spurs, Mavs, Warriors ... but the reality is that, through play-in, the possibilities increase and the opportunity to play is closer. the playoffs with that previous one that the NBA adopted for greater justice in the Orlando bubble and has wanted to continue putting it into practice.

The match between direct rivals had two distinct parts: the first three quarters and the last. In the first, the Grizzlies were the dominators, slowly but surely, with a notable absence of great advantages but resembling a pylon hammer that never stops punishing its rival, with a very good performance from close range, always looking for his chances in the zone and throwing only 22 triples in the entire match (they only scored seven), a really low figure for current basketball. They went ahead in the first quarter (28-31), increased their lead at halftime (55-62), and led by double digits with 12 minutes ahead: 90-100. And there, they sank loudly to lose a game that they had worked excellently and that they had on track, but they could not close.

The last period was a crossing in the desert for Memphis. They started by receiving a 14-4 run that tied the game at 104, they ran out of energy and saw the rival run over them without having any kind of reaction capacity. The catastrophe was forged with only seven field goals scored (in 22 attempts), a poor 1 of 6 in triples, and only 6 rebounds and 4 assists, by 16 and 8 of the locals, who lost 6 balls that could not take advantage of the by Taylor Jenkins. In those minutes, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 9 points, grabbed 2 rebounds and distributed 1 assist; Throughout the match, his stats were 30 + 4 + 5. And his averages this season are 23.5 + 5 + 6.2, enough to go to an All Star who has not been selected because, as in the Western Conference, there is no room for everyone. A player of the future who leads his team to an unlikely crush and who trains a man also with room for improvement, the rookie Mark Daigneault. But what did Doc Rivers discover on the Clippers, remember.

In the rest, little thing. Ja Morant went to 22 points and 7 assists, but it was not the solution for his team and he ended the last quarter, in which he assumed a lot, with only 2 hits in 7 attempts. Jonas Valanciunas emphatically punished the area and went to 16 points with 14 rebounds, while Dillon Brooks went to 19, but with 2 of 7 in triples. The Grizzlies are still alive, they take two victories from a Thunder that they could have sent too far back (missed opportunity) and they stalk some playoff spots that miraculously escaped them (they did not like the play-in too much) and that they aspire to obtain for the first time since the departure of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, the last vestiges of the longed-for Grit and Grind. And the Thunder, with nothing to lose but much to gain, see from afar what would be an unmitigated success, but without the pressure or need to live with so much stress in the present. That is why they have before them, of course, a future full of promise. And rounds of the draft. Sam Presi took care of it.

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