Thunder vs. Grizzlies Preview & Prediction

The fight for playoff positioning in the Western Conference heats up on the Friday night, as the Memphis Grizzlies look to reclaim a share of the West's #2 seed with a win over a visiting Oklahoma City Thunder squad fighting to hold off New Orleans for the #8 seed.

Projected Starting Lineups

(all stats based on service time with current team)

Oklahoma City Thunder (42-33)

PG: Russell Westbrook - 27.6 ppg, 8.7 apg, 7.3 rpg, 2.13 spg

SG: Dion Waiters - 12.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg

SF: Kyle Singler - 3.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg

PF: Enes Kanter - 17.9 ppg, 11.0 rpg

C: Steven Adams - 7.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg

Memphis Grizzlies (51-24)

PG: Mike Conley - 16.0 ppg, 5.3 apg

SG: Courtney Lee - 10.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg

SF: Jeff Green - 13.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg,

PF: Zach Randolph - 16.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg

C: Marc Gasol - 17.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.8 apg

What to watch for:

Russell Westbrook's MVP campaign stops in Memphis

Not only is Westbrook having one of the best statistical seasons for a point guard in the past forever or so, he's also doing it while holding up the fort for a Thunder team beseiged by injuries to its core pieces (Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Westbrook himself). If he goes into full triple-double mode once again against a true championship contender like the Grizzles in Memphis' house, it'll be just another day in the life of a transcendent talent who has passed the NBA MVP eye test time and time again.

Passing from the post

If the Thunder hope to stop the Grizzlies in front of a raucous Memphis crowd on Friday night, they'll have to neutralized Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph in the post while cutting off Gasol's passing lanes when he attempts to kick it out to open jump shooters. That's easier said than done, especially with Durant and Ibaka's absence and Steven Adams a game-time decision. Enes Kanter much?

Prediction: Grizzlies nip the Thunder 99-96

Both teams have plenty to play for in different respects, but the Grizzlies' frontcourt advantage should be enough to fend off Russell Westbrook's magic act on this night in Memphis.

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