Strong start allows Thunder to roll past Grizzlies
The Oklahoma City Thunder jumped to a 35-18 lead at the end of the first quarter of the game on Sunday in Chesapeake Energy Arena. Paul George had 16 of those 35 points. OKC then set a franchise record for made 3-pointers in a half, hitting 12 to go up 74-54 at halftime. George hit a 3 to increase the Thunder’s lead to 28 points early in the third quarter. OKC faced little resistance in closing out the game. George finished with 33 points, eight assists and three steals. This month, he has averaged 30.7 points per game on 48.9 percent shooting from the field and 46.4 percent shooting from the 3-point line.
Familiar faces in new places, new faces in familiar places
After injuries to Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Andre Roberson, OKC had holes in its starting lineup. To fill the void, Raymond Felton, Alex Abrines and Patrick Patterson were in the Thunder’s starting lineup on Sunday night. Felton led the team with a plus-minus of +21. Abrines led the team in minutes for the first time in his career, and Patterson’s 35 minutes played were his highest since signing with OKC. Dakari Johnson, Kyle Singler, PJ Dozier and Daniel Hamilton received minutes coming off of the bench. Thunder coach Billy Donovan could continue tinkering with the lineup as the injuries mount and the All-Star break nears.
OKC’s victory masks larger issues
Despite an 18-point victory, the Thunder have problems that still need to be addressed. Memphis, No. 28 in the league in rebounding, outrebounded the Thunder by nine. OKC had just lost five of its last six games. Those familiar faces probably won’t always play well in their new places. A franchise record for 3-pointers won’t always fall. As long as Westbrook and Anthony are missing time, the Thunder will be operating at a deficit. The impact of the star players’ absence was somewhat hidden against Memphis, a team that has lost six and a row and holds one of the worst records in the NBA. That will likely not be the case when OKC hosts LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.