NORMAN — It’s become an unlikely rivalry. There is no reason for Oklahoma City and Memphis to have an ongoing feud, except that they do and the numbers seem to bear it out.
For the third time in the last four years, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies will meet in the postseason. With the teams splitting the previous two matchups, this year’s first round matchup is the rubber match.
"It doesn’t matter," Thabo Sefolosha said. "We are just focusing on us. We are going to play hard. It’s going to be a battle."
While the Grizz knocked the Thunder out last season with a 4-1 beat down, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks has a weapon at his disposal that he didn’t have then. Russell Westbrook sat out the series in 2013 with an injured knee. His presence back with the team has been invaluable.
In four games this regular season, the Thunder own a 3-1 record against the Grizzlies. The one loss came Jan. 14 in Memphis without Westbrook in the lineup.
"Russell has missed a lot of games also," Brooks said. "Sometimes people want to forget that. Russell brings a lot of toughness to our team. He brings an aggressive style to our team. He had a career year numbers wise. First or second team all-NBA numbers. He has missed a few games here and there. But he brings us a toughness and things that we need to do in order to win."
Memphis is one of the more unique teams in the league. While most squads rely on fast and quick perimeter players driving to the basket and knocking down jump shots, the Grizz are have built around their big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, who both have a plus 18 Player Efficiency Rating. Even under first year head coach Dave Joerger the formula hasn’t changed.