Thunder, Grizzlies meet before All-Star break
The Oklahoma City Thunder will attempt to avoid a letdown when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night for the second game of a back-to-back.
The game will end the NBA "first half" for both teams, with the Thunder having established themselves as a solid playoff contender while the Grizzlies almost surely have headed well down the road to the draft lottery.
The Thunder made the short flight to Memphis after a high-profile, 120-112 home loss to the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers in a nationally televised showdown Tuesday night.
Oklahoma City will be facing a team it handled easily, 110-92, at home on Sunday, even with Russell Westbrook sitting out with a minor ankle injury.
Westbrook returned to contribute 21 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds to Tuesday's losing effort.
The Thunder also got big games from Paul George (25 points), Carmelo Anthony (24) and Steven Adams (22 points, 17 rebounds), but the depth-shy squad got a total of just 20 points from its other five guys who played.
Oklahoma City, which has lost six of its last eight games, has struggled to find a capable fifth starter since Andre Roberson suffered a season-ending patellar tendon tear Jan. 27.
Alex Abrines, who started in Roberson's spot Tuesday, went scoreless in 23 minutes. Josh Huestis and Terrance Ferguson also have gotten shots at holding down Roberson's spot. None of the three has done well enough to be considered the long-term solution.
"The coaches spend so much time scouting that they want to take as much time as possible to think about it," Huestis said of the rotating position. "For me, it's not that big of a deal, because I stay ready. If I go into every single day ready for whatever the situation may be, then I have no problem either stepping into a starting role or coming off the bench."
The Thunder have won both meetings this season with the Grizzlies, who haven't played since the Sunday loss at Oklahoma City.
Memphis will take a six-game losing streak into the game.
The Grizzlies returned Tyreke Evans to the lineup Sunday after sitting him five consecutive games while trying to trade him.
Their reported desire to get back a first-round pick without taking on an undesirable contract conspired to thwart that effort, putting Evans in the unenviable position of playing the rest of the season for a team that openly was looking to deal him.
"Basically, we felt that the offers weren't sufficient for a player of Tyreke's caliber and potential," Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace explained. "And particularly they weren't sufficient when weighed against the potential benefits of having him here for the rest of the season. So, we decided not to do anything."
Evans put forth an uninspired effort in his return against the Thunder, missing eight of his 11 shots and three of his four 3-point attempts in a 12-point outing.
Evans had scored 20 or more points in 14 of his last 22 games before being given the in-season vacation.
Updated February 14, 2018