Thunder try to rediscover selves against Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan has consistently said his team's tough closing schedule was a positive, even as the Thunder slid down the Western Conference standings.
After winning at Toronto on Friday night, Donovan said his team needs to build on that performance and not get comfortable after snapping a four-game losing streak leading into Monday's game at Memphis.
"There's times when you win basketball games, and it can be late in the year, and you can lose your way," Donovan said. "And there can be a lot of things that you're slipping on, but because the result is what you want, you actually go into the end of the year not being as good of a team."
The Thunder enter the game in sixth place, tied with the Utah Jazz but holding the tiebreaker after sweeping the season series.
Monday's game is a chance for Oklahoma City to make up some ground -- or at least to avoid losing ground -- in the fight to avoid the No. 8 spot and a first-round matchup with Golden State.
While the Thunder play most of their remaining games at home (six of nine), the game is one of only three Oklahoma City has remaining against teams that are not in a playoff position currently.
The first time the Thunder and Grizzlies played this season was on Feb. 7, the first game of the post-Marc Gasol era after Memphis traded their longtime center to Toronto earlier in the day.
While the Grizzlies chose to move on from Gasol, they held onto the other franchise stalwart, point guard Mike Conley.
Entering Monday's game, Conley needs just seven points to pass Gasol and to reclaim his spot as the franchise's all-time leading scorer.
Conley comes into the game with 11,678 career points and has scored at least 20 points in each of his last seven games.
The Thunder have won the previous two meetings between the teams, both in Oklahoma City.
Memphis could be without backup center Joakim Noah, who missed Friday's overtime loss at Orlando with right knee soreness and tried to play Saturday against Minnesota before being forced out of the game after less than nine minutes due to the same problem.
Noah's injury is the latest in a string of maladies that have hit the Grizzlies in the season's closing weeks.
Guard Avery Bradley is expected to miss his fourth consecutive game after suffering a shin contusion more than a week ago.
"There's guys that gotta fill in," Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "Tyler (Dorsey)'s been playing well in the G-League and so has Jevon (Carter).
"We're not going to ask them to do anything different. ... We're just going to ask them to play to their strengths and not be anything more."
The Thunder are expected to have backup point guard Dennis Schroder available Monday night.
Schroder rolled his ankle early in the fourth quarter of Friday's win at Toronto and remained in the game to finish with 26 points -- 12 in the fourth quarter.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 24, 2019