A visit to Oklahoma City would typically pose a serious threat to a Memphis team that's on quite a stingy streak, but the version of the Thunder the Grizzlies will see Wednesday night should find scoring more difficult.
The Grizzlies try to continue their recent defense dominance against a Thunder team that will likely be without Kevin Durant.
Memphis (19-17) has held opponents to 92.5 points per game since Dec. 14, a return to its top-5 defensive form of the previous four seasons. The Grizzlies are 6-5 during the stretch, winning three of the last four, but a closer look reveals that just one of their opponents entered Tuesday as a top-10 scoring team while four ranked 25th or worse.
Oklahoma City (24-11) ranks second in the league with 108.5 points per game, a number that rises to 109.7 while the Thunder have won 11 of their last 13 home games.
But they look much different without Durant, who sat out Monday's 116-104 loss to Sacramento with a sprained right big toe. Durant was injured in Saturday's 109-90 win at Charlotte, and the Thunder were listing him as out for this matchup as of Tuesday night.
Anthony Morrow scored a season-high 20 points while starting for Durant, who missed most of last season with a broken bone in his right foot that required three operations and sat out six in November with a hamstring injury.
The Thunder are 3-4 without Durant this season. Memphis, though, will still have to deal with Russell Westbrook, the co-Western Conference Player of the Month for December with Durant.
Westbrook's averages bump up from 25.3 to 30.4 points, 7.3 to 10.1 assists and 5.3 to 7.7 rebounds in seven games without Durant this season - including a 40-point performance in a 122-114 loss at Memphis on Nov. 16. He finished with 17 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds against Sacramento, but made just 2 of 15 shots after halftime and finished with seven turnovers.
But while the Thunder will miss Durant's scoring, it's the defense that has coach Billy Donovan worried. Sacramento scored 50 points in the paint and 17 on the fast break while snapping Oklahoma City's four-game winning streak.
"As a team in general, we've got to be able to hang our hat on defense," Donovan said. "... Because you're going to have nights where you don't shoot the ball particularly well."
Though Memphis' defense has been great, it's averaging an NBA-low 94.8 points since Dec. 3. The Grizzlies have failed to score 100 in 14 of their last 17 games.
They have used a smaller lineup in the last month, shifting Zach Randolph to the bench. The 15-year veteran has welcomed the role and matched a season high with 26 points while grabbing 18 rebounds in Monday's 91-78 win at Portland.
''I'm a team-first guy," Randolph said. "It's not about me, it's about winning and whatever the coach thinks is best for the team. So that's how I'm approaching it."
Oklahoma City won this season's second matchup 125-88 at Memphis on Dec. 8 behind 32 points from Durant. The Grizzlies have won four of the last six meetings, though the Thunder have won four of five in Oklahoma City.