Apr 30, 2014, 1:45 AM EDT
Four straight overtime games.
For fans this Grizzlies/Thunders series has been a classic. For the coaches it has cost them sleep, stress and maybe a couple years off the end of their lives.
For the players… well, Memphis is good with it right now.
Memphis started hot opening the game on a 10-2 run, and with smart execution (they played faster, got into their offense earlier and kept making the extra pass) they led by 20. But nobody runs away with a game in this series — Oklahoma City responded with a 13-0 run of their own, they got points from Caron Butler as the much needed scoring option. This was a game again.
An overtime game. Again. But in overtime Mike Miller hit two threes and a missed Kevin Durant free throw — after Joey Crawford interrupted his rhythm — plus a Serge Ibaka tip in that was a fraction of a second too late gave Memphis a 100-99 win.
Memphis now leads 3-2 and is heading home with the chance to eliminate the Thunder on Thursday night.
If the Grizzlies play like they did early in this game offensively come Thursday they may well pull off the upset.
Memphis put up 30 points in the first quarter, shooting 60 percent, as they worked hard to get into their offense more quickly, which let them get deeper into their sets and that led to an extra pass and a good look. Also their bigs running the floor and beating their match down the court led to some easy buckets on rim runs. As they have done all series the Grizzlies had balanced scoring — the leading scorer for Memphis was Mike Miller with 21.
Meanwhile, early on the Thunder were just a lot of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook isolations. Those two combined for 55 points, but again the Thunder were a team looking for a third scorer. Down 18 there were a few boos from a frustrated crowd.
Enter Caron Butler in the third. He had 12 of his points in the second half and sparked a run an 27-6 OKC run to close out the third and start the fourth. The Thunder executed their offense better and, more importantly, just started hitting looks they had missed earlier. They also got help — Westbrook had 30 points, Durant 26 points (on 24 shots) but both Butler and Serge Ibaka had 15 and that was the extra scoring the Thunder offense needed.
Memphis started the fourth 0-of-7 shooting, opening the door for a Thunder squad growing confident and more aggressive with their defense. Then with a Durant three the Thunder took a one point lead with 6:30 left.
That’s when Memphis responded with 9-3 run of their own on 3-of-3 shooting. It’s been like that all series — one team makes a run, the other responds.
The Grizzlies thought thy would win this in regulation — up two with 28 seconds to go they just needed a foul or a shot — instead Westbrook striped Mike Conley out top and tied the game with a breakaway dunk with four seconds left.
Memphis had a last shot, but they made two passes (Conley to Gasol to Zach Randolph) and the shot didn’t get up in time. Memphis scored just 14 in the fourth quarter.
So it was overtime. Again.
In overtime the Thunder were down two with 27.5 seconds left and Memphis played good defense and forced a contested shot at the buzzer — but Tony Allen went over the back of Kevin Durant going for the rebound. Foul and two shots. Durant drains the first, one point game. As he goes to take the second referee Joey Crawford blows his whistle and sprints out to stop the shot, then went over to the scorers table to correct the number of team fouls on the scoreboard. Then Durant gets another chance to shoot, and with a blown rhythm misses.
However the Thunder defended well and down 1 with 2.6 seconds left OKC got one last chance — a Kevin Durant three missed but Ibaka was right there for the tip in and shot. Just after the buzzer sounded. The referees looked at the replay and made the right call, Ibaka did not get it off in time.
Memphis won. They can close out the series Thursday, but will probably need overtime to do it.
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