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Thunder-Grizzlies Preview

Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Joerger shouts to his team in the second quarter of Game 2 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Photo:

Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Joerger shouts to his team in the second quarter of Game 2 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Even with Russell Westbrook making a run at MVP honors, the Oklahoma City Thunder understand they might have to become more consistent defensively to keep the final playoff spot.

They'll try to make some strides against a Memphis Grizzlies team that has had trouble scoring for quite a while.

The banged-up Thunder will look to tighten their grip on eighth place Friday night when they visit the Grizzlies, who are trying to move back into a tie for the Southwest Division lead.

Westbrook finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists Wednesday for his eighth triple-double since the All-Star break, though it wasn't enough in Oklahoma City's 135-131 home loss to Dallas.

The All-Star point guard is averaging 31.9 points, 10.4 assists and 9.2 rebounds over his last 17 games. However, he's gone just 3 for 18 from 3-point range in his past two and the Thunder are 1-5 when he attempts at least seven.

Anthony Morrow had a season-high 32 points and Enes Kanter added a career-high 30. But because of their defense, the Thunder became the first team to lose in regulation with three scoring 30 since Portland went down to Seattle in 1995.

"Everybody looked themselves in the mirror," Morrow told the team's official website. "Everyone has to lock in on being alert and physical to start the game. You can't give scorers confidence and let them run around freely."

Oklahoma City (42-33), which has dropped three of four, has had its hold on the Western Conference's final playoff position trimmed to 1 1/2 games over surging New Orleans. The Thunder will host Houston and San Antonio after facing Memphis.

After allowing an average of 110.4 points over a 15-game stretch, they limited Utah and Phoenix to 95.5 before taking a giant step back Wednesday by letting the Mavericks shoot 61.5 percent.

Oklahoma City may be able to show improvement against the Grizzlies, who have scored 88.3 per game in three meetings. The Thunder limited them to 37.2 percent shooting in a 105-89 home victory Feb. 11.

Westbrook had 24 points, nine assists and nine boards despite shooting 4 of 15 from the field as Oklahoma City won after dropping the first two in the season series.

Memphis hasn't made things easy on Westbrook, who has totaled 38 points while shooting 9 for 31 in his two games. Westbrook has shot 36.0 percent in his last five games at Memphis.

After giving up an average of 107.0 points in losses to Cleveland, Golden State and San Antonio, the Grizzlies (51-24) bounced back in Monday's 97-83 home win over Sacramento that opened a four-game homestand.

"(This) is a good chance to be at home for a little while and the guys are excited," said coach Dave Joerger, whose club fell a half-game back in the division after Houston won at Dallas on Wednesday.

Memphis has averaged 93.4 points while reaching 100 only five times over its last 26 games.

Mike Conley scored 18 Monday after putting up 9.8 per game over his previous four. He had 20 points in a 91-89 road win over Oklahoma City on Nov. 7 before totaling 18 in the next two matchups.

Zach Randolph finished with 21 points and 18 rebounds in an 85-74 home victory Jan. 31. The veteran said he'll play in this meeting despite suffering a hyperextended elbow against the Kings.

Tony Allen is questionable due to a hamstring injury that has cost him the past two games.

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