Movin' On Up
The Grizzlies were two games under .500 when Gasol returned on Jan. 14 against the Thunder and they have lost just once since. He's not putting up big numbers, but that was never his thing. You can see the difference on the defensive end. Memphis beat Milwaukee 99-90 on Saturday and hasn't allowed an opponent to score 100 points since Gasol returned. Six foes have been held under 90.
Guard Courtney Lee has been an underrated trade acquisition from Boston. He is starting now for the Grizzlies and is averaging 13.7 points while shooting an excellent .551 from the field with Memphis. He barely played with Boston but is averaging more than 31 minutes a game with the Grizzlies. Another guy who has come mostly out of nowhere to be a contributor is James Johnson. The former D-League player has been solid off the bench, averaging 7.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals per game in 20.2 minutes over his past 10.
The news isn't all good for Memphis (22-23-1 ATS, 21-25 O/U at sportsbooks). Point guard Mike Conley missed Saturday's win over the Bucks with a sprained ankle and is out another week at least. Conley was averaging 18.0 points and 6.3 assists per game, both well above his career numbers. Nick Calathes, who wasn't even good at Florida, started on Saturday for Conley and blew up with 22 points in 40 minutes. Don't expect that again.
Durant Actually Mortal
There is no such thing as a lock for those making their NBA picks, but you almost had to see Oklahoma City's 96-81 loss in Washington on Saturday coming. It was the definition of a trap game with the Thunder (29-20 ATS, 24-25 O/U at sportsbooks) entering with a 10-game winning streak and off back-to-back playoff-type wins in Miami and Brooklyn. They were 5-point favorites on NBA odds but never seem to play well in D.C.
Kevin Durant had "only" 26 points against the Wizards in the return to his hometown and looked gassed by going 0-for-6 from 3-point range. It was only his fourth game this season without a 3-pointer and his second straight game under 30 points after hitting that mark in 12 consecutive. OKC had just 13 first-quarter points, its fewest in that quarter in nearly two years, and matched its season low in points.
Read our NBA Picks of the Day for more free plays.
Third of four meetings and the first in Oklahoma City. On Dec. 11, the Thunder were 6-ponit favorites for sports bettors in Memphis and won 116-100. Russell Westbrook, who remains out likely until at least Feb. 20, had 27 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Durant had 18 points, one of his lowest outputs of the season. He only took 12 shots. Conley led the Grizzlies with 20 points, and Gasol missed that one.
On Jan. 14, the Grizzlies were 1-point favorites and beat Oklahoma City 90-87. That was Gasol's first game back and he had 12 points and four boards. Zach Randolph had 23 points and 13 rebounds, and Lee had 24 points. Durant put up 28 shots this time with Westbrook out and had 37 points. That had been Oklahoma City's last loss before Saturday in Washington.NBA free picks: Memphis +7 and the over. The Grizzlies are a stellar 8-0 ATS in their past eight against teams with a winning record, while OKC apparently hates Mondays, failing to cover its past six on the day. Memphis has covered six of the past seven meetings.