A favorite to make a big splash in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder look to begin the season with three straight wins when they pay a visit to the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at FedEx Forum.
The Thunder opened the truncated 2011-12 campaign with a win over Orlando on Christmas and are coming off Monday's 104-100 triumph in Minnesota. Kendrick Perkins sank two big free throws in the closing moments, while Kevin Durant led all scorers with 33 points. Russell Westbrook added 28 points and six assists for Oklahoma City, which got 16 points, six rebounds and three assists from James Harden in its 10th straight win over Minnesota.
"I thought we played very well. Minnesota is a good team, they're much improved and they have an atmosphere that brings excitement and enthusiasm for a good team," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "This is a great offensive rebounding team (Minnesota) and we kept them off the boards. They are also a good shooting team and our close outs were good."
Oklahoma City eliminated Memphis from last year's playoffs and is aiming for its first 3-0 start since 2003-04, when the franchise was located in Seattle. If Durant notches 30-plus points again he will become the only player in the last two seasons to start the season with three consecutive 30-point scoring performances (Carmelo Anthony, 2009-10).
After visiting the Grizzlies, Oklahoma City will play two straight and four of five games at home.
Memphis will play its home opener tonight after beginning the season with a 95-82 loss at San Antonio on Monday.
Rudy Gay had 19 points and 10 rebounds in his first game back for Memphis. He missed the final 28 games of last season and the Grizzlies' entire playoff run with a shoulder injury. Marc Gasol had 13 points and Zach Randolph posted 10 points and six rebounds for the Grizzlies, who upset the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs last season.
"We didn't attack the way we were in the first half," Gasol said. "We didn't shoot as well and they took advantage of that."
The Grizzlies will play two straight and three of the next four games as the host, and took three of four matchups with the Thunder during the regular season a year ago. Oklahoma City is winless in three straight games as the visitor in this series.