The Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder played their fourth straight overtime game Tuesday night and this one, like two others, was won on a gritty performance by the Grizzlies 100-99. Once again it was bench-scoring which made the difference for the winning team.
With the exception of Game One, when each bench contributed 25 points, each game has been won by the team whose bench outscored the other. On Tuesday night the Memphis bench had a 38-26 advantage, led by Mike Miller who came in for the Grizzlies and poured in a team-high 21 points. Miller was 6-for-11 from the field and five of those were three-pointers. He was also 4-for-4 from the free throw line. When the game ended, Miller said it was simply a case of his team’s resilience: “That’s a good offensive team. They’re going to make their runs, especially at home, but we took their punch, we went into overtime and we won the game.”
The game was played in Oklahoma City, but it was the Memphis Grizzlies who went on the offensive early, beating the Thunder to the basket and the boards to the tune of 30-25 in the first quarter and 55-43 at halftime. For a team like the Grizzlies, who average just over 96 points per game, a 30-point quarter is almost unheard of.
The Thunder made their run late in the third quarter. After falling behind by 20 points with 3:43 to go in the period, Oklahoma City went on an 18-4 run and trailed by only six, 76-70, going into the fourth. The comeback was complete with 6:46 to go in regulation when Kevin Durant hit a three-pointer to give the Thunder their first lead of the game 79-78. The Grizzlies fought back however, and looked to be in good shape to win the game in regulation, leading 90-88 and with possession of the ball after a Thunder miss. Russell Westbrook, however, picked Mike Conley’s pocket with six seconds left and scored on a dunk to tie the score at 90 with four seconds left.
In overtime the Grizzlies never trailed, taking the lead for good on a three-pointer by Miller just 21 seconds into the extra period. The Thunder could have tied, but Kevin Durant missed the back-end of two free throws with 27 seconds left. A last-second tip-in by Serge Ibaka, off of a Durant three-point miss was ruled too late, and the Memphis Grizzlies notched another overtime win, 100-99 over Oklahoma City.
In addition to Miller’s 21 points the Grizzlies got 20 from Zach Randolph and 17 from Conley. Marc Gasol was the team leader in rebounds with 15. The Oklahoma City Thunder were led by Westbrook with 30, while Kevin Durant tallied 26. Despite the big numbers, it was not a good shooting night for either of the Thunder scorers. They were a combined 20-for-51 from the field. Westbrook was just 1-for-7 from the three-point stripe. “We’ve got to continue to search and find better shots [for Durant and Westbrook]” said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks. “We’re going to go back and look at all of them and see what we can do better.”
The Grizzlies now have a chance to clinch the series as Game Six shifts back to Memphis on Thursday. If a seventh game is necessary it would be back in Oklahoma City on Saturday.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky