Oklahoma City Thunder 133, Memphis Grizzlies 123: 2011 Western Conference Semi-Finals Game Four; Masterpiece

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Were you watching when.....the Thunder beat the Memphis Grizzlies in triple overtime? If you're about to hang with some friends and you missed the game last night, then it might be in your best interest to read this recap. Because everybody will be talking about this game. Heck, I'm sure everybody across the nation will be talking about this game, and even a few people in basketball-crazed places like Eastern Europe, Australia, and the Philippines. Welcome to Loud City's GameThread was 647+ Comments deep, a site record.

After such a triple overtime masterpiece, how do I even begin to write a recap for it? The answer is very simple: I start at the beginning. Behold a blow by blow recap of this masterpiece, with analysis mixed in. I've thought about doing some general analysis on this game, but it was so long and has so many chapters that I don't think writing a traditional recap would do this game justice.

1st Quarter: 12:00-5:52, The Nightmare

These were dark times. Fortunately, most of us were caught up watching the Heat-Celtics game. Oh, admit it, even some of the most die hard Thunder fans had trouble tuning in to TBS to watch the first four minutes of this one, especially when Jeff Green was getting burn in overtime for the Celtics. But, during this time, the Grizzlies were getting everything they wanted. Their first 8-0 run was full of easy baskets, and things weren't corrected until Westbrook beasted to the basket. But even then, things were still bad. Perkins was pulled after committing a terrible turnover, and Westbrook committed an offensive foul. Our offense wasn't even given a chance to run, and our defense was average at best. Things ended on a high note with a foul on Ibaka, but there was a long way still to go.

Score: Grizzlies 14, Thunder 6

1st Quarter: 5:52-2:57, The Nightmare Gets Worse

Here, the Grizzlies beat the Thunder with raw talent. After the Thunder finally found a way to equal what the Grizzlies were doing on offense, the Grizzlies turned it up a notch. Zach Randolph hit a left handed hook shot, and Marc Gasol was left wide open. 

Score: Memphis 22, Oklahoma City 13

Below: The Rest of the Game, Awards!

1st Quarter: 2:57-0:00, Night Tremors

The Grizz took their lead to 12, and all was not well. The Thunder were showing flashes of what their offense could be by getting other players involved in the offense and getting some nice transition buckets. But they still kept committing bad turnovers, resulting in the deficit going nowhere fast.

Score: Memphis 28, Thunder 16

2nd Quarter: 12:00-7:13, Rock Bottom, then Revival

At this point, the Grizzlies offense was slowly grinding to a halt, but they continued to create points by getting fouled. Both teams were throwing up shots, desperate for points. The Thunder had established a decent defensive presence, but they kept throwing up badly contested shots offensively. Something had to give, and a savior finally came in Daequan Cook. His first three was sheer luck, getting a lucky pass off of a long Harden rebound. But his next three was planned out, and it got the deficit back to 14. Technically, the Thunder hadn't made any progress since the beginning of the second, but the back to back threes finally gave them an offensive flow that the Grizzlies didn't have.

Score: Memphis 39, Oklahoma City 25

2nd Quarter: 7:13-5:47, Temporary Lull ala Kendrick Perkins

Harden was no longer given a huge amount of attention, so he got a quick basket. But the Thunder were still losing the battle down low, and Kendrick Perkins got frustrated and was T-ed up. This gave the Grizz a 5 point run, and drained the momentum from Oklahoma City, forcing a Time out.

Score: Memphis 44, Oklahoma City 27

2nd Quarter: 5:47-0:00, The Miracle

It all started with some confusion down low, and an easy Cook score off of an inbounds pass. It continued with the Thunder clustering inside so the Grizzlies would get no more tip-ins. Then, it blossomed. All of a sudden, Westbrook was going coast-to-coast for a three point play. The Thunder were having their way when driving to the hole one way or another, and Memphis looked confused on defense. They resorted to fouling as the quarter went on, but the Thunder got the foul every single trip down the floor, whether it be in transition or simply because space was created down low. The comeback wasn't pretty, but by the end of the quarter, the Thunder were only down four.

Score: Memphis 53, Oklahoma City 49

3rd Quarter: 12:00-7:26, Throwing the Hammer Down

The second half started much as the first, with the Thunder failing to get any ball movement going on offense and committing a stupid turnover. But before the game got out of hand, the Thunder turned to Durant. and he did what he does best; get fouled. After getting fouled twice, he had enough. He drove the ball from half-court through a couple of well-placed picks for an easy slam. This ignited the OKC offense, and gave them confidence in attacking the basket, allowing a Sefolosha tip-in. Then, the Grizzlies went into a zone and concentrated way too much on defending the paint. This gave room for back to back Thunder jumpers, and a tied game.

Score: Memphis 61, Oklahoma City 61

3rd Quarter: 7:26-3:29, Pandering, Westbrook Rollin'

Things started settling down, but the Thunder stagnated a bit. Westbrook made a few excellent drives (in the same place twice in a row) but the Grizzlies were responding with points of their own, and no progress was made. The Thunder did lead at one point, but after a few bad shot attempts by the Thunder and some bad turnovers by the Grizzlies, the Grizzlies re-took the lead on a deep two from O.J. Mayo.

Score: Memphis 68, Oklahoma City 67

3rd Quarter: 3:29-0:00, No Progress

Both teams were toughening up with some mean man-to-man defense, and nobody could really take advantage of their matchup. Both teams  did score, but mainly by virtue of getting lucky when going at the basket.

Score: Memphis 72, Oklahoma City 71

4th Quarter: 12:00-5:54, The Scoring Finally Begins

In the fourth, generally the defense lets up and both teams go at it offensively. The Thunder accomplished this with some stunning court-vision. Without any real high-level talent on the floor, they had to look for the open man, and Collison, Harden, and Maynor did an excellent job of this, leading to easy points on the Thunder's end. They finally took the lead again on a deep Maynor three, and wouldn't give it up until the end of regulation. Then, when things started chugging to a halt, Westbrook and Durant were put back in the game, and they made an immediate impact with both talent and hustle. The end result was a 7 point lead on the Grizzlies, who had scored at a rate equal to what they had scored earlier in the game, but were still prone to some stupid turnovers.

Score: Oklahoma City 87, Memphis 80

4th Quarter: 5:54-3:40, Cracks in the Hull

Russell Westbrook's "Beast Mode" has its' ups and downs. He can get you some easy points by driving to the basket, but he can also slow your offense by making it extremely predictable. A missed jumper and a bad three gave the Grizzlies the time they needed to go to the free throw line and cut into the deficit.

Score: Oklahoma City 92, Memphis 87

4th Quarter: 3:40-1:12, She's Taking on Water

The Thunder continued to score, but their defense was failing. They continued to go man-to-man, which allowed room for Marc Gasol to work and show off his talents. When Westbrook missed a critical three point shot, Memphis had their chance to cut the lead to one possession. Some beastly play by Randolph in the post got him to the line, and all of a sudden, the Grizzlies had a shot at keeping this game alive.

4th Quarter: 1:12-0:00, It's Not Over Yet

Kendrick Perkins had a chance to seal this game at the line. Yeah, he didn't. His two missed free throws gave Memphis another chance. O.J. Mayo tried to cut into the lead with a two, but it was a no go. So Westbrook ran to the other end of the court and tried to shoot over Marc Gasol in vain. Gasol batted the ball away, and it was scooped up by Conley. Conley ran to the other end of the court and used a Gasol screen to get a mismatch with the slow Kendrick Perkins. He fired up a three, and it was good. The Grizzlies had tied the game up again. With 3.5 seconds remaining, Russell Westbrook tried to seal it with a three of his own from the corner, but he was well-guarded by Conley, and it fell short. Overtime.

Score: Oklahoma City 96, Memphis 96

Overtime: 5:00-2:08, Establishing Dominance

James Harden took on a Westbrook-like role here, and it paid off. He had an amazing drive that ended in the foul simply because of his pure skill, and he got another trip to the line on a fast break. The Thunder's lead was cut to two by Randolph doing the same thing, but the Thunder's run continued. Perkins made up for his end of game ineptitude with a tip off of a missed Harden Drive, and Durant hit a deep three. Memphis wasn't showing the same talent, and missed some tough shots. All in all, a 7 point lead was gained through sheer talent.

Score: Oklahoma City 105, Memphis 98

Overtime: 2:08-0:48, The Grizzlies Strike Back

Fortunately for the Grizzlies, O.J. Mayo is just as good as James Harden. He hit one three, and after Durant responded with a two, he hit the next open three he took. In-between, a controversial out-of-bounds call gave the Grizzlies a second lease on life, and Mayo made the most of it. On the next play, Durant was smothered. He's not the greatest passer, so the ball went right back to the Grizzlies, who ran down the court and got Zach Randolph fouled. He made both shots, and they were back to being down by one.

Score: Oklahoma City 107, Memphis 106

Overtime: 0:48-0:00, Music City Miracle, Part II

Both teams played some sloppy offense, and both possessions were wasted. But off of a missed Conley three, Westbrook almost fumbled the ball out-of-bounds. Harden was there to save the day, diving out of bounds for the ball and throwing it back to Westbrook, who was fouled. This fouled Mike Conley out of the game, leaving O.J. Mayo to take his place. That wasn't a terrible fate for the Grizzlies, but some fans had to feel that this was a devastating blow for them. But O.J. Mayo had to foul Westbrook, fouling himself out of the game and leaving the Grizzlies with Greivis Vasquez. Westbrook sunk both of his shots at the line, and the Thunder's lead was back to three. But the Grizzlies responded with one of the stupidest three point attempts ever by Greivis Vasquez, who refused a pick and threw up a complete prayer at the rim. It was answered, and the game was tied with ten seconds to go. The Thunder had another chance to pull off a miracle, but they threw up an equally stupid Durant three from nearly half-court, and it didn't go in. Double-OT.

Score: Oklahoma City 109, Memphis 109

Overtime 2: 5:00-1:49, The Grizzlies Ride Their Momentum

Vasquez tried to repeat his miracle right off of the bat, but it failed. Harden tried to recapture the magic of the first overtime as well, but that also failed. So both teams had to re-strategize. The next possession was an offensive foul by Zach Randolph, but in the process of fouling Randolph inadvertently slapped Nick Collison in the face. Collison, in turn, slapped the ball out of Randolph's hands, and after Randolph threw a few words at him, Collison responded with, "Comeon, you want to say that to my face?" Collison was Ted up and the Grizzlies got a free point, but the Thunder retained possession. It was back to the Westbrook-Durant circus for the Thunder, and Westbrook capitalized with a gamey and one play that put the Thunder up by two, but the offense stalled after that. The Grizzlies responded with an easy transition bucket and a well-earned Battier jumper obtained through some tough rebounding. They weren't owning the Thunder down low, but the ball took some lucky bounces to the outside, resulting in the Grizzlies taking their first lead since the early fourth quarter.

Score: Memphis 114, Oklahoma City 112

Overtime 2: 1:49-0:30, An Old-Fashioned Shootout

Players were starting to feel fatigued, which led to both teams wasting not a single offensive possession during this stretch. Driving baskets were easier to come by, and Westbrook and Vasquez took immediate advantage of that fact. Vasquez's drive resulted in three points though, so the Thunder had to respond with a three. Once again, James Harden came through, with an extremely clutch catch-and-shoot three. The Grizzlies responded quickly with a Randolph Drive that was tipped in by the ever-lurking Gasol. Westbrook went back inside to Perkins, but Perk was fouled on the floor. With the game on the line, Westbrook took matters into his own hands and hit a nice looking jumper in-rhythm, while both Gasol and Allen were looking for him to drive. An extremely gamey play, and one that tied the game back up at 119.

Score: Memphis 119, Oklahoma City 119

Overtime 2: 0:30-0:00, No Go

Both teams had their chance, and both failed. The Grizzlies resorted to playing hard inside, with Randolph getting to chances at a basket and Gasol missing a tip.But the ball was eventually grabbed by Perkins, who threw it to Randolph, who tipped it to Gasol, who tipped it to Collison, who threw it to Perkins, who threw it to Harden, who secured the ball. He called a timeout, giving the Thunder a chance to run a play with 6.3 seconds to go. Westbrook ran from three quarters court to the basket, but he underestimated how much time he had and pulled up for a extremely difficult jumper, instead of driving to the basket. The shot was short, and the game was headed into triple overtime.

Overtime 3: 5:00-0:58, The Shootout Continues

At this point, both teams were dog tired, and easy shots weren't so hard to come by. At times, it looked like guys were shooting in an empty gym. But the shooters were equally tired, so some shots missed especially bad. Vasquez missed a wide open three, and neither team could get any shots going. Harden opened scoring with an easy steal from Tony Allen and layup, but Kendrick Perkins was shortly fouled out, and replaced by the fresh Serge Ibaka. Randolph hit two free throws, tieing it back up. Westbrook responded with a tough-looking layup, but Tony Allen was blocked by Harden when trying to nail a layup of his own in the post. He was pulled for Sam Young during the next play, when Durant was fouled going to the hole. The Thunder were ahead by four, but the Grizzlies immediately responded with a wide-open Vasquez jumper, while a tired Westbrook was caught up behind Gasol. Westbrook showed exactly how tired he was at the other end, when his drive to the basket was straight up blocked by the fresh Sam Young at the other end. The Grizzlies simply could not convert though, with Randolph missing an open shot down low. Ibaka kept the Thunder ahead with a open jumper over the tired Gasol, and swatted Gasol's attempt to do likewise at the other end. Things were going the Thunder's way, and there was only one thing to do. The ball was given to Durant, who, despite having played 56 minutes at that point, hit one of the toughest teardrop layups I've ever seen. Thunder lead by 6.

Score: Oklahoma City 129, Memphis 123

Overtime 3: 0:58-0:29, Closing the Door

The Grizzlies, knowing they couldn't hit a three, went back inside to Randolph. He took too long, so Gasol had to bail on him in the lane, and he lost the ball. Durant took the ball yet again, fooled Shane Battier with a tricky dribble, and hit yet another rhythm jumper. Timeout Grizzlies, Thunder up by 8.

Score: Oklahoma City 131, Memphis 123

Overtime 3: 0:29-0:00, Garbage Time

Gasol badly clanked a long three, and the Thunder rebound the ball. The Grizzlies stole the ball again though, and Tony Allen airballed his next three over the rim. Daequan Cook went to the line, sank two shots, and pushed the game to 10 points. After a Vasquez clank, the game was over. The Thunder had won the most epic game of all season, and tied the series at two games a piece.

Final Score: Oklahoma City 133, Memphis 123

Awards:

Thunder Wonder: James Harden. I don't care about the stats, this man made so many clutch plays that it's impossible to not give him the award. HARDEN GOES HARD. SO HARD. ROCK SOLID.

Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, for sealing it late in the third OT. He was relatively quiet in the earlier periods, but he stepped up when he needed to.

Thunder Blunder: Kendrick Perkins, for his double-jeopardy failure at the end of regulation. His overall game wasn't terrible, but this one could have been over a lot sooner.

Thunder Plunderer: Greivis Vasquez, for making the luckiest shot in the world at the end of the first overtime, and adeptly piloting his team through the second OT.

Next Game: Game 5, Versus the Memphis Grizzlies, Wednesday, May 11th, 8:30 PM Central Daylight Time.

Random Note: Nate Robinson had to get stitches just below his eye when he took a bad dive while playing a 2 on 2 game with Royal Ivey, Cole Aldrich and B.J. Mullens. Nice to see those guys are still getting some burn!

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