If slow and easy wins the race, it was only fitting it took an overtime period for the Memphis Grizzlies to wear down the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-105 Monday night and even their NBA Playoff series at one game apiece. It was the Grizzlies’ defense that made the difference, holding the Thunder below their season average in points even with the five-minute overtime.
“We played slower, even though we got the ball up quicker and we played deeper into the clock offensively just to try to control the tempo of the game a little bit” said Memphis Coach David Joerger. The Grizzlies also got a big effort from their bench, outscoring the Thunder bench players 33-14.
Game two began as the polar opposite of game one as the Grizzlies took control from the start in the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Memphis hit the first basket and never trailed in the first quarter, building a 24-16 lead at the end of the first 12 minutes. They would then endure a second-quarter Thunder onslaught to maintain the lead at halftime 46-43. “I thought offensively we couldn’t get into a rhythm early. We missed some shots that we could make. Give them some credit; they did a good job of putting their hands on us.” Oklahoma City Coach Scott Brooks told reporters.
The third quarter became a series of ebbs and flows, as time and again the Thunder would challenge, only to be rebuffed by the resilient Grizzlies. Even when Russell Westbrook finally tied the game with a lay-up with 5:26 to go in the period, Memphis would not fold. A little over a minute later Thabo Sefalosha gave the Thunder their first lead 61-60 but Marc Gasol would score a minute later giving Memphis a lead they would not relinquish until late in the fourth quarter.
In the final period of regulation it looked as though the Oklahoma City Thunder would let the Memphis Grizzlies even their NBA playoff series without much of a fight. Memphis led by as many as nine points with 7:22 remaining, but watched the Thunder methodically chip away at the deficit; always closing, never catching. When Grizzlies’ guard Mike Conley hit two free throws to give his team a 98-93 lead with 18 seconds to go, it seemed the final song had been sung. This is where the game got amazing. Westbrook got the inbound pass with a defender on him, and almost lost the ball out-of-bounds. Making a dive to save the ball, he flipped it to Kevin Durant who was also bumped toward the same sideline. A whistle blew for a foul, and Durant would at least get three free-throws. As he was falling into the front row, however, Durant managed to flip the ball into the basket for the triple. The free throw was good and the Thunder had cut the lead to one with 13 seconds remaining.
A foul on the ensuing inbound pass put Conley back on the free throw line for Memphis where he made one of two, putting the Thunder down two points with 12 seconds left and no time-outs. Bringing the ball down court, Westbrook threw up a three-point attempt that glanced off of the rim and backboard and into the waiting hands of Kendrick Perkins whose put-back bounced through the net as the red lights flared around the glass. The game would go to overtime tied at 99.
Zach Randolph would put his signature on the game in the extra period, scoring eight of his team’s 12 points as the Grizzlies never trailed for the final five minutes. The final score was 111-105 and the Grizzlies had evened things up with the Oklahoma City Thunder as their NBA playoff series heads to Memphis for game three on Thursday. Randolph had 25 points to lead the Grizzlies, who had five players in double figures. For Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant led all scorers with 36, with Westbrook chipping in 29.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky