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Memphis’ defense, discipline propel them past Thunder in overtime, lead series 2-1

Apr 25, 2014, 12:16 AM EDT

Zach Randolph, Mike Conley AP

Whatever Russell Westbrook wants to call the arena in Memphis, it’s going to show up in his nightmares now.

Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 60 points but shot a combined 34 percent and were 4-of-21 from three — there is no third scoring option that Memphis fears (or should fear) and if those two aren’t efficient you can contain the Thunder. Especially when the Thunder offense becomes stagnant and their shot selection is poor.

Which is exactly what happened for three-and-a-half quarters and had Memphis in complete control of the game… and then things got crazy.The Thunder went on a 17-0 fourth quarter run and tied the game up. Memphis got back-to-back buckets from Tony Allen. Oklahoma City got a four-point play when Allen fouled Westbrook on a three. Then we all got overtime.

That overtime saw the Grizzlies go up 5 and hang on as the Thunder missed more good look threes at the end and Memphis hung on for a 98-95 win.

That gives the Grizzlies a 2-1 lead in the series, with Game 4 at their place Saturday night. Memphis is in control of this series and can take a stranglehold of it with a win.

This is the second game in a row where the Grizzlies blew a big lead but didn’t lose their heads (despite a couple of silly fouls by Tony Allen) — even after that ugly fourth quarter stretch they got back to their game and executed.

Oklahoma City looked scattered. And they missed a lot of good looks on the night on the road. They were not the composed team. You saw why in the first half — and why the FedEx Forum is The Grindhouse no matter what Westbrook thinks.

The Grizzlies’ defense contested seemingly everything in the first half. Oklahoma City scored 36 points on 36.8 percent shooting in the first half, with just five fast break points. Kevin Durant had 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting, Russell Westbrook had 9, Serge Ibaka had 8, and combined that trio shot 45.8 percent. The rest of the Thunder combined had 7 points on 3-of-14 shooting.

This looked like a blowout before things just got ridiculous.

Oklahoma City found its offensive game and a sense of desperation. The Grizzlies seemed to play the clock not the opponent — they would go deep into the shot clock to eat up time before starting their set, but that just led to bad shots. The result was no Memphis points for more than six minutes and a 17-0 OKC run to tie the game at 81-81.

But Memphis didn’t lose it’s head — Allen made a good drive for a dunk, then on the Thunder’s ensuing possession Allen stole a lazy Westbrook pass to Durant and t with a fast break finish the Grizzlies were up four.

Then this happened.

The score was soon tied and, after both teams missed opportunities, we were headed to overtime.

Durant scored first in the OT but then the Grizzlies went on a 7-0 run. That was the game breaker. In overtime again the Grizzlies were able to get good looks and get stops. They were disciplined and true to themselves, and they got the win.

Mike Conley had another brilliant game with 20 points on 14 shots. Tony Allen and Zach Randolph each had 16 points (but it took 20 shots to do it). Marc Gasol had 14 points and was an offensive lynchpin for long stretches of the game.

On the other side Ibaka finished with 12 points and was only one of three Thunder players in double figures.

There is not one simple issue for the Thunder — they miss a third shot creator, their sets can be unimaginative and too easy to guard, their defense has been lacking. All of those are part of the last two losses. But the Thunder is a team capable of big spurts and big shots, capable of winning big games on the road.

Oklahoma City’s real biggest problem is that Memphis is a very good team, and one that is a matchup problem for them.

  1. seattlesuperchronic - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    Quick random thought.

    If the NBA believes that short sleeved jerseys don’t affect player performance, how come they aren’t being worn in the playoffs? From a marketing standpoint, the playoffs are the best time to trot out these weird uniforms.

    • campcouch - Apr 25, 2014 at 5:24 AM

      because King James bellyached. No one else had problems. Heck,not a soul says anything about the compression sleeves, long sleeve compression shirts,full length compression pants and body armor these guys wear so I doubt moisture wick shirts are an issue. I think that fans are more accustomed to the traditional logos during series play if there’s any reason.

      • calkinsrob - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        there were def a few other players who did not like them. I think i remember reading an article about how jarrett jack didnt.

  2. antistratfordian - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:36 AM

    Two 4 point plays to force overtime in back-to-back games? Tres bizarre. What happens when they run out of 4 point plays?

    I’m as surprised as anybody that the Thunder are down 2-1 in the first round. This shouldn’t be happening.

    • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:37 AM

      I’m not as surprised, my friend. I was talking about this tonight with my father and we were saying how this happens because of the vast difference between the regular season and the playoffs. The Thunder (and Derrick Rose’s Bulls) are made for the regular season because you’re playing a different team every night, with travel (on many occastions), and it allows for athletic teams to run. In the playoffs, the game slows down and it becomes more of a half-court game; which is why people always say defense wins championships (slows down the offense).

      • antistratfordian - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:28 AM

        You’re acting like the Thunder are some young run and gun team that has never been to the finals and doesn’t have a top 6 defense.

        Generally what you’re saying is true, but it doesn’t apply to every athletic team (like Miami) and it wasn’t supposed to apply to the Thunder. Like LeBron James, Durant is expected to be able to transcend these laws by the force of his own will.

        And we’re still in the first round! We shouldn’t even be having this conversation.

        I guess what I’m saying is that I’m genuinely surprised that Kevin Durant specifically has allowed his team to fall into a 2-1 hole so early in the playoffs. They’re just three games into the playoffs and they’re already facing a must win game!

        I still have my money on OKC, but it is bewildering.

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 8:09 AM

        It’s not supposed to happen to the Thunder, but it has both when they were healthy and injured. At some point in the playoffs, they run into a team that exposes all of their weaknesses.

      • antistratfordian - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:46 PM

        Yes, well people expected Durant and Westbrook (especially Durant) to mature and to be able to overcome that. Who thought the Grizzlies would be up 2-1 right now? Not many.

      • showtimefolks007 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:44 AM

        you are wrong about Bulls, they are struggling because they have not a single player who can get his own shot

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 8:12 AM

        But they’ve done well during the regular season without a single player who can get his own shot.

      • showtimefolks007 - Apr 29, 2014 at 9:34 PM

        well in regular season you play different teams almost every other night so your weakness can be hidden but in playoffs when the other team only has you in their focus than the real weaknesses show. even with rose healthy and MVP they lost to the Heat

        so they need melo and rose back healthy

      • zoomy123 - Apr 25, 2014 at 7:16 AM

        @antistratfordian

        Correction, the Thunder had a top 6 REGULAR season defense. People always forget this: the difference between the regular season and the playoffs is enormous not just for offense but defense as well.

        Also, the comparison between KD and Lebron James is NOT justified. Kevin Durant doesn’t even have any historic playoff performances. Not a single one. He doesn’t even have any playoff performances in the clutch that you could call “transcendent.” Even if we took Lebron James’s resume over the last 2 years he’s done more than KD in his entire playoff career. Even the performances you don’t remember, like in 2012 when Miami was down 2-1 against Indiana on the road and LBJ dropped 40-18-9, are absolutely historic.

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 8:13 AM

        LeBron has so many of those games. The game against the Pistons when he scored 25 straight points. The games against the Celtics when he went off. Yes he’s had some duds, as well, but I agree that LBJ has a style of play that is better suited for the playoffs.

      • redbaronx - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        @fanofthegame79 – The Bulls weren’t “made” for the regular season. If it weren’t for Thibs coaching, the Bulls would be a bottom or out of the playoffs team. They regularly have adjusted to losing major pieces like Rose and Deng with a roster of nobody’s + Noah and Boozer. When the Bulls get Rose back, they’ll still need another scoring option.

        The Thunder. I agree there. They’re a good regular season team, but they need more defense and more pieces that can score to supplement Durant / Westbrook. Perk is dead weight on offense. The reason they went to that Finals three years ago was a better overall talent on the roster with Harden, and their bench was better.

        Another problem with the Thunder is coaching. I’m thoroughly convinced now of Scott Brooks inability to adapt strategically and tactically. He’s a good motivator, but he’s a step behind when it comes to adapting in the playoffs. We’ve seen enough.

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:03 PM

        Brooks’ non-ability to make adjustments might be a major cause as well. Good points.

  3. nfl4days - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:48 AM

    Kevin Durant needs to Westbrook down and get him to understand that he is the number 1. Kevin is the guy. Not Westbrook. This team not only wins, but it dominates when Westbrook is playing PG the way is meant to be played. This team isn’t going to reach their goal with Westbrook out their trying to be the next Kobe Bryant.

    • nfl4days - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:14 AM

      *sit Westbrook down. ( is it so hard to allow us to edit comments?)

    • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:40 AM

      I don’t know. The Thunder were beat by the Grizzlies last year in the playoffs without Westbrook (allowing KD all the shots he could take) – I think it’s more of a match up problem.

      • nfl4days - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:55 AM

        I’m not saying they’re better without Westbrook, but he needs to know his role. He has to be the guy to get other players involved and going so Memphis can’t have thier way with him and kd. Instead he would rather go out and play hero ball and try to make the highlight reel.

      • antistratfordian - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:30 AM

        It’s not a matchup problem. It’s a coaching problem.

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 8:15 AM

        The problem with the Thunder is they rely too much on the jump shot – and if that doesn’t fall, they have no chances of winning the game. KD and Westbrook went off for 30 points each, but it wasn’t good enough because their role players aren’t hitting (or taking) shots.

      • antistratfordian - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:43 PM

        That can be solved with coaching.

  4. jamesk2465 - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:31 AM

    Based god curse is real on KD, but fr the Thunder can’t keep playing 2 against 5 out there I didn’t even see other than KD and westbrook shooting for most of the 4th quarter. Scott Books offensives schemes can be so frustrating to watch

  5. eugenesaxe1 - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:45 AM

    I’d like to like OKC, but Westbrook makes it too hard.

  6. savvybynature - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:05 AM

    Tony Allen loves playing basketball so much, he single-handedly won the game in regulation down the stretch, then fouled Westbrook on a 3 to extend the game, then played well in OT to help win the game, and then fouled Westbrook again on a 3 to try to send the game to double-overtime! haha
    Allen is crazy. His defense is as fun to watch as great scorers! (That deflection and then save for the steal late in regulation was unbelievable!)

  7. phx1311 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:10 AM

    Westbrook is a shooting guard playing the point. He does not play point gaurd properly and they will never win a championship at this rate. Westbrook just jacks up shots when he can create shots for his team and Kev can handle the rest. Coach brooks wont be around to much longer because he has a video game offense. you just take the ball up the court and hope for something good to happen.

    • eventhorizon04 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:58 AM

      People forget that when the Thunder still had James Harden, they preferred to have Harden (not Westbrook) handling the ball in the fourth quarter.

      It’s a bad sign when the shooting guard is more trusted to be a facilitator in crunch time than the point guard….

    • realfootballfan - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:25 AM

      Ding ding ding. You get the gold star. Until the Thunder stop trying grind that square peg into a round hole, they’ll continue to lose. It’s not coaching (this is the NBA people, players win, not coaches); it’s not Duran’t’s fault; it’s not really even Westbrook’s fault. The Thunder’s two problems are that they don’t play tough enough defense, and they have- a glorified shooting guard playing the point much like Iverson did most of his career until Larry Brown moved him to more of a shooting guard role when he had his best years. When Harden was there, he distributed especially late in games. While I think he’s overrated because he doesn’t shoot well enough, that is a huge piece of the puzzle they have yet to replace since he went to Houston and will continue to be a huge problem holding them back from winning a championship.

    • redbaronx - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      phx1311 – You hit the nail on the head. Scott Brooks has no sense of strategy or adapting, and Westbrook needs to be a shooting guard not a point guard.

      Last offseason I heard the front office was considering a move. I think this offseason it will happen, particularly if the Thunder can’t beat the beatable and offensively challenged Grizzlies.

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:09 PM

        This might be a little off topic, but there was a Mario Chalmers article on here the other day and there were so many negative opinions about him pretty much sucking. However, just think if the Thunder had a point guard like him: everyone would shift to their natural positions, and Chalmers isn’t a “me first” guy… If a player plays to their strengths, and knows their role, they can be a major contributor (even if they’re not really a top 10 point guard).

      • redbaronx - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        fanofthegame79 – I agree with everything you said there. OKC doesn’t need a superstar PG to suck the possessions out of KD and Westbrook. Someone that can make shots and drive the lane decently would go a long way in OKC. If I were OKC GM I’d look for someone with a low turnover rate that is enough of a threat to drive and shoot without sucking up major cap money, and is satisfied to defer to KD / Westbrook, and pick up the slack when necessary. Chalmers is going to be a FA this year btw….who know right?

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        Thanks!

  8. trbowman - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:40 AM

    But Memphis didn’t lose it’s head — ”

    its*

  9. lakerade - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:07 AM

    Kinda thought OKC would be representing the West. They still may due to the overall parity, but it’s looking like the Heat will be rested and waiting for whoever survives the Western Conference.

  10. realfootballfan - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:12 AM

    Uh oh. The script wasn’t supposed to be going this way, lol.

  11. campcouch - Apr 25, 2014 at 5:44 AM

    Memphis is built to match up against just about any of the teams in the West. Randolph and Gasol give fits to other team’s bigs,offensively and defensively. They also clog up the middle on slashers. Allen is an excellent defender and can give you enough offense to keep his man honest. Conley is underrated because he isn’t flashy,but he’s a solid defender and PG. But,we’ve seen Durant get on a roll,and despite the Griz having the advantage now,two of those games went to OT. I wouldn’t count OKC out yet.

    • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      Good point, but this series could just as easily be 3-0 in favor of Memphis.

  12. bougin89 - Apr 25, 2014 at 9:36 AM

    Kendrick Perkins 34 minutes played last night. Hmmm…

    • unxpexted1 - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      normally I’m on the get kendrick out the game train, but for real, he’s played about as good of defense on Randolph as you can hope for.

      • redbaronx - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        @unxpexted1 – As well as Perkins has played on D, I’m not sure its the right equation. OKC needs to speed the game up, not play to the Grizzlies strength. Brooks should be trying a small starting 5 and make Randolph run up and down the court trying to guard his man. Instead Brooks is playing right into the Grizzlies hands. And we all know Perk isn’t going to give you anything on offense, so I think having Perkins in the game at all is a lose-lose scenario for OKC.

        The other plus about going to a small lineup is that it would get Durant and Westbrook out on fast breaks more often where they can be LETHAL.

        Maybe I’m oversimplifying, but I think this is really basic strategy! I think Brooks should be fired honestly. He’s unimaginative and he doesn’t know much more than cheering his players on. Good motivator. Bad strategy and tactics.

  13. onlyavoice - Apr 25, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    LMAO, )KC = NO TEAM BALL.
    OKC fans screaming MVP/NBA CHAMPS because KD was scoring 40 to 50 points a game.
    I called it Melo ball.
    OKC lost last night playing 2 on 5. Look at the bench stats for both teams. Look at all the bricked 3′s
    KD & Westbrook chucked. NO TEAM BALL.
    KD had great stats, but I never saw him as an MVP. He was playing Melo ball,
    (Just Me Myself & I)
    Brooks is an IDIOT for letting this happen.

  14. emdawt - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Bench play. OKC is getting nothing from their bench or role players. Let Durant and Westbrook shoot all their bullets and limit damage from everyone else.

    Grizzlies getting 13 points off the bench from Udrih in the last two games. Tony Allen is playing like a god (outside a few bonehead mistsakes).

  15. mat9844 - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    Every team that isn’t OKC is hoping that the Thunder will take care of the Grizzlies…nobody wants to face them. As a long time Clipper’s fan, I’m one of them. I have a lot of grudging respect for the Grizzlies and I’m not surprised they’re winning.

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