At this point in the season, a lot of teams are playing for playoff positioning, while the rest of the league is playing merely for pride. Today’s matchup between the 43-30 Oklahoma City Thunder and 29-44 Memphis Grizzlies features one team from each of those category (8pm ET Monday).
The Thunder are in the midst of a tight battle for Western Conference seeds five through eight, and every game is crucial. However, OKC is just 6-11 in its last 17 games despite facing relatively few injury issues.
The Grizzlies are a team with much less talent than Oklahoma City, but the squad is still grinding through their games to stay competitive. Memphis is 6-5 in its last 11 games and usually keeps games close in both its wins and losses.
This preview will look at some key questions that will determine this matchup before we decide on the best ways to bet on the game’s spread and over/under with our OKC vs Memphis Grizzlies predictions.
Can Jonas Valanciunas Be a Net Positive Against Steven Adams?
When the Grizzlies traded Marc Gasol to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas at the trade deadline, most assumed that Memphis was downgrading at center.
So far, Valanciunas has been very good, though. He has been downright dominant over his last four games with averages of 24.5 points, 15.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2 blocks per contest. Turnovers (3.8 per game) have admittedly been a bit of an issue for him.
The question with JV is always whether his offensive strengths are enough to offset his mediocre defense. The Thunder have a borderline All-Star center in Adams who plays well on both ends, so Valanciunas’ recent hot streak will certainly be put to the test.
Will Oklahoma City Do its Best to Rattle Memphis on Defense?
If the Thunder defense is locked in against the Grizzlies offense, there is no real reason that the Grizzlies can score consistently on them. OKC leads the league in turnovers forced per 100 possessions and Memphis turns the ball over the seventh-most times per 100 possessions in the NBA.
The Thunder just have way more athleticism and length than the Grizzlies. When Oklahoma City steals the ball 13 or more times, it has an 11-2 record. When Memphis has the ball stolen at least 10 times, the squad is 3-15.
However, OKC’s defensive unit is not consistent. The Thunder sometimes slack on transition defense or in closing out to shooters. Their ball pressure can be strong, but it isn’t always that way. Memphis needs to hope that the Thunder don’t bring their best defensive effort in this game.
Can Dennis Schroder Perform Well Against the Grizzlies’ Tough Defensive Guards?
The Thunder have Schroder as their primary offensive option off the bench. His 15.5 points and 4.2 assists per game might suggest that he has had a very good season, but that is not true. His shot selection is very questionable and that has led to major fluctuations in his efficiency.
The thing with Schroder is that his performance is a very good barometer for how well the Thunder perform. In wins, he averages 20.8 points per 36 minutes on 45.2 percent shooting from the field and 38.3 percent shooting from three-point range. In losses, that drops to 17.1 points per 36 minutes on 35.5 percent from the field and 28.7 percent from three.
Memphis has two very good defensive guards off the bench (Jevon Carter and Delon Wright) who will do their best to make Schroder work hard for his points. Schroder needs to use his speed to get to the rim instead of settling for contested jump shots.
Our Preview’s OKC vs Memphis Grizzlies Predictions & Betting Picks
The talent difference between these teams is pretty significant in OKC’s favor. However, the Grizzlies have been solid at home as of late. Since the trade deadline, they are 7-4 at home. Those four losses were by an average of just 5.5 points. Oklahoma City has played below its talent level for the past few weeks and effort has been a significant problem.
All in all, I think the Thunder should be a slight favorite to win, but a Grizzlies win would not be surprising in the slightest. Our Thunder vs Grizzlies picks and predictions go like this:
- The Thunder are favored by 6 points with all the best U.S. betting outlets. My advice is to bet with Bovada Sportsbook on the Grizzlies +6pts @ best odds of -105.
- I don’t think the Thunder’s defensive effort will be strong enough in this game to force a faster pace and earn them lots of fast-break points. OKC’s offensive rebounding will extend some possessions, but this game should still be a defensive struggle that will come down do the wire in the last few minutes of the game. Bet the under 218 total points @ -105 with Bovada, who are again the best odds.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.