The Memphis Grizzlies survived a huge night by Russell Westbrook last month to beat an Oklahoma City Thunder team missing Kevin Durant. Even when not at his best, as has been the case lately, Durant showed again in the Thunder's last game how important his presence can be.
No teams have played each other more over the past five years than Memphis and Oklahoma City, and both are looking to build some momentum following wins on late baskets as they square off Tuesday night in Tennessee.
These Western Conference powers are meeting for the 40th time since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, with the Grizzlies holding a 21-18 edge despite losing two of the teams' three playoff series. Oklahoma City has lost its last three trips to Memphis - all regular-season visits in 2015 - though Durant didn't play in the last two.
The Thunder (12-8) led after three quarters there in the only matchup this season despite missing an injured Durant, but they gave up 43 points in the fourth and lost 122-114 on Nov. 16. Westbrook had 40 points on 13-of-19 shooting and handed out 14 assists, but Memphis posted what remains its highest point total of the season and went 12 of 17 from 3-point range.
The Grizzlies (12-9) are only 13 for 54 (24.1 percent) in the last four games but have won three, and they remain the West's worst 3-point shooting team at 30.8 percent.
Oklahoma City has been struggling in that area as well at 29.6 percent in the last four games, and Westbrook enters in a 3-for-19 funk from beyond the arc.
Durant is 3 for 13 in the last two games while committing 15 turnovers, including 10 on Sunday, but he hit the go-ahead jumper with 23 seconds to go and two free throws with 4.4 seconds left in a 98-95 win over Sacramento.
''That's what your best player does,'' Westbrook said. ''He's not going to play perfect every night, but you can see he closed the game for us and did a good job defensively.''
Durant hasn't surpassed 25 points in three consecutive games for the first time since last December, and his 20 points Sunday were his second-fewest of the season. Westbrook had 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the Thunder improved to 3-0 when he has a triple-double. He's had three against the Grizzlies, all in the postseason.
Memphis' latest win was even more dramatic, with Courtney Lee's inbound pass finding Jeff Green for a dunk with 0.5 seconds left in Sunday's 95-93 victory over Phoenix.
"You don't like being in close games like that, but it's always fun when you pull it out and get the win," Green said.
Coach David Joerger said he felt like this team "didn't play great," and that's been a trend lately at home. The Grizzlies struggled to beat a Suns team which had lost seven of eight, three days after being blown out by 20 against San Antonio. In its final two home games of November, Memphis lost by 15 to Atlanta and needed a fourth-quarter rally to defeat league-worst Philadelphia.
The Thunder, though, have a 3-5 road record which is the worst of any division leader. They're allowing an average of 108.1 points in those games, compared to 98.4 at home.