(Photo by Sam Murch)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY — Andre Roberson has a long memory. But the Oklahoma City guard doesn’t have to remember back that far to recall the “disrespect” he believes the Memphis Grizzlies showed him and his team.
When the Grizzlies beat the Thunder Dec. 29 in their only other matchup so far this season, there were some pretty upset players in the Oklahoma City locker room when it was over. It revolved around reserve guard Memphis Troy Daniels heaving up a couple of late 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter of a 114-80 blowout victory. It’s something Roberson has not forgotten.
“At the end of that game I felt we got disrespected in a way,” Roberson said. “They were launching 3s at the end. I didn’t take that too kindly. It leaves a taste in your mouth after the game to be honest with you. We remember that.”
The two teams face-off again Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
While the Grizzlies won the first encounter handily, the rematch could come down to which “Big Three” shows up.
Yet, for most of this season, Oklahoma City has pretty much been a “Big One.” In many cases, Russell Westbrook has been the first, second and last option for the Thunder.
But lately, Oklahoma City has been building the foundation for their own really “Big Three.” Along with Westbrook, centers Steven Adams and Enes Kanter are becoming more consistent offensive weapons as the Thunder enter Wednesday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Against Chicago on Monday, the two centers combined for 42 points and 16 rebounds. They shot 20 of 25 from the field as the Thunder earned an easy 109-94 victory. In Oklahoma City’s win over Denver, Kanter and Adams tallied 30 points and 12 boards.
Kanter and Adams’ emergence has given Oklahoma City more options to run its offense through instead of always having Westbrook initiate the plays.
“It makes it easier for everybody,” Roberson said. “That’s what we try to do all along or with Russ. Try to put two on the ball and find the open man. That’s how the game is played. They do a good job of passing out of the double team and taking advantage of it.”
Westbrook will still overwhelmingly dominate the action offensively for the Thunder. But now, he at least is gaining trust that he doesn’t have to do it by himself.
“My hand is always on the game,” Westbrook said. “I just pick my spots and see what’s open and what’s not.”
When the Thunder (23-16) face the Grizzlies (24-16) at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, they will be taking on a squad that may be one of the few teams in the league built to battle them. With Mike Conley at point guard and Marc Gasol at center and Zach Randolph coming off the bench, they have a similar “Big Three” makeup.
But that wasn’t the case earlier in the year. With Randolph coming off the bench for the first time, he has had to get adjusted to his new role.
But recent success against Golden State and Utah may mean more playing time together for Randolph and Gasol.
“I think teams are happy with the way we’re playing, taking pressure off of them honestly,” Randolph told ESPN. “Some guys told me on that other teams: ‘Shoot, we’re happy y’all guys aren’t playing together anymore. It gives us a break.’ It’s already been proven. We’ve done proved enough and showed it. I think that’s not the question. It’s just coach wanting to play different and do a different style.”