The streaking Memphis Grizzlies are off to their best start in franchise history after a decisive win over one of the NBA's premier teams. They'll try to keep their streak intact by defeating another of the league's standout franchises.
While seeking a sixth consecutive win, the Grizzlies will try to end the Oklahoma City Thunder's five-game streak Wednesday night.
Memphis (5-1) takes the court a day after learning assistant general manager Kenny Williamson died of cancer. Williamson, who was 65, had just begun his sixth season with the Grizzlies.
Memphis was expected to get one of its toughest tests of the early season with a home game against defending champion Miami on Sunday, but the Grizzlies pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 104-86 victory. Their bench scored a season-high 41 points, led by fourth-year pro Wayne Ellington's career-best 25, and they limited the Heat to 38.0 percent shooting.
"It was a great team game. There wasn't much I could complain about. We played outstanding basketball," coach Lionel Hollins said.
Memphis is allowing averages of 89.8 points and 41.3 percent shooting over its win streak and will try to build on those efforts when it faces the Thunder (6-2) before returning home to take on New York on Friday.
"We've got a tough run ahead of us," Ellington said. "We got the first one, but we've got a few more to go."
If there's any edge for the Grizzlies on Wednesday, it might come from some potential fatigue for the home team. The Thunder will be playing their league-high ninth game this month and fifth in a week.
Oklahoma City, however, shook off its weariness Monday to pull out a 92-90 win in Detroit. The Thunder trailed by 11 points entering the final period, but Russell Westbrook scored 14 of his season-high 33 points and Kevin Durant added 11 of his 26.
"That's one of our trademarks that I'm so proud of. We always play hard until the end," coach Scott Brooks told the team's website. "There are a lot of games where we don't play well, but there are very few where we don't play hard. ... I thought our guys just did a good job of staying with it and playing for 48 minutes."
Oklahoma City played well enough to prevail in each of the first three meetings with the Grizzlies last season before a 94-88 home loss April 2. Memphis shot 39.1 percent in that game but had six players in double figures compared with four for the Thunder.
Westbrook was 23 of 67 (34.3 percent) over last season's four matchups, including a career-worst 0-for-13 performance in a 98-95 road win Dec. 28, but still averaged 18.5 points.
Durant is averaging 28.8 points over his last 21 meetings with the Grizzlies, including a seven-game Western Conference semifinal series in 2011, but is shooting 28.9 percent from 3-point range.
Marc Gasol led Memphis with averages of 18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds in last season's series. Zach Randolph, who missed two of those games due to a knee injury, has averaged 22.2 points and 10.7 boards in his past 32 matchups, including the postseason.
It hasn't been that long since each club's most recent six-game win streak. The Grizzlies finished 2011-12 with six consecutive wins, while the Thunder won six in a row March 21-April 1.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved