ORLANDO, Florida- The Oklahoma City Thunder experienced its first tragic performance in the bubble as the Memphis Grizzlies rocked the Thunder offensively 121-92.
In the words of Billy Donovan, the first quarter of play was the epitome of “fools gold” as the Grizzlies began to run away with the game in the second quarter leaving the defensive struggles of the Thunder on fully display.
“I didn’t think our defense was great,” Donovan said following the game. “I thought we were very fortunate to begin. We didn’t shoot the ball well at all after the first quarter.”
The Thunder came out firing on offensive going 7-13 from behind the arc giving them a 15-point lead to start the game.
Lu Dort shot lights out in Q1 finishing 4-5 from downtown serving as a major step-up from the previous three games where he shot 9-32 overall. Dort finished 6-9 today for 16 points as the second-leading scorer behind Chris Paul
Paul, who finished with 17 on 6-12 shooting, commented on his team’s performance saying the energy wasn’t there and being shorthanded may have taken a toll on the Thunder’s performance.
“Obviously we missed Steven [Adams],” Paul said. “Not only Steven, but we missed Dennis [Schröder] and Musky [Muscala]. We still had a game plan and had that nice lead, but we just have to play better.”
Adams, who was ruled out for leg soreness following a scary fall he had against the Lakers on Wednesday, was replaced by Nerlens Noel in the starting lineup. Noel, who has had success when called upon to start with electrifying performances, contributed 11 points going 4-6 from the floor.
Mike Muscala remained out of the lineup due to being on the NBA Concussion Protocol for the second straight game, and Dennis Schröder remains out of the bubble for now due to the birth of his second child.
“I don’t like to use that [absence of players] as an excuse,” Donovan said. “I think we are capable of defending better than we defended today no matter what.”
Defense was a major setback for the Thunder today giving up 121 points to the Grizzlies, who entered today’s matchup 0-4 in the bubble, but shooting woes struck young players causing the Thunder’s offensive to go stagnant.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ended the game with 10 points going 3-13 from the floor, 1-8 from deep, and distributing the ball for 3 assists.
“He’s in a totally different role than he’s used to,” Donovan said of the young point guard. “We’re trying to put him in situations a little bit more where he will be out there by himself. He’s done a great job handling it, and I know he can handle it, but it’s probably been a little different for him.”
Other young players found themselves in shooting ruts as Darius Bazley, Abdel Nader and Hamidou Diallo combined for 8-32 shooting going 3-13 from 3-point range.
“Our energy was just not there,” Danilo Gallinari said following the game. “It looked as if we just couldn’t control the pace of the game. The energy is something we have to bring more consistently.”
The Thunder fall to 2-2 in the NBA bubble with the Grizzlies getting their first win since entering Orlando.
OKC will be back in action on Sunday against the Washington Wizards at 12:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. CT).