A near triple-double and 36 points wasn't enough from Kevin Durant as the Oklahoma City Thunder lost Game 2 of their Western Conference Semi-Finals matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies 99-93 in Oklahoma City Tuesday.
The Thunder and Grizzlies played tough for three quarters exchanging 22 lead changes with neither team capturing an advantage of more than seven points. Memphis had multiple opportunities to blow the game open as Oklahoma City gave up 12 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over 16 times in the first 36 minutes. However, the Grizzlies couldn't answer the Durant question for the first three periods as he torched them for 26 points, nine boards and eight assists.
Durant wasn't alone in his effort to take the Thunder to Memphis up 2-0. Derek Fisher scored 19 points in 25 minutes including four makes from beyond the arc. Fisher sparked the Thunder in the second quarter where he scored 13 of his 19 points. He hit three threes and at one point he became Oklahoma City's go-to guy. His and Durant's efforts propelled the Thunder to a 54-51 lead at halftime.
The Grizzlies failed to answer in the third period with just 15 points on 31.6 percent shooting while the Thunder weren't much better with only 23 points on 38.1 percent shooting. It became a battle of attrition until Memphis broke the game open in the fourth.
Memphis turned their offense around with 30 points on 47.6 percent shooting in the final 12 minutes. Mike Conley carried the team with 13 points and seven rebounds in the fourth alone. The Thunder saw a five-point, third quarter lead evaporate to a four-point deficit with 8:03 remaining.
The Thunder fought back and took their final lead late as Kendrick Perkins knocked down his second of two free throws with 2:41 left in the game. It went downhill for the Thunder from there.
The teams exchanged turnovers before Conley knocked down a three off a feed from Marc Gasol to take a 92-90 lead with 1:58. Scott Brooks then called timeout, which allowed Lionel Hollins to bring in Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince, their two best defenders, for Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless.
Allen defended Durant well enough to force a miss from 25-feet away with 1:44 remaining. Memphis corralled the rebound and substituted offense for defense with the ball. Conley then nailed a jumper with 1:22 left to give Memphis a 94-90 lead.
Again Brooks called timeout and again Hollins substituted, this time defense for offense again as he brought Allen and Prince back from the bench. Allen's defense on Durant proved to be the difference late, particularly with :56 remaining as Allen pulled the chair out from underneath him to force a turnover and ultimately ice the game.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
It was a great game and two players stepped up big for their teams: Mike Conley and Kevin Durant.
One thing the Thunder has to do is protect the defensive glass. They won't win many games giving up 16 offensive rebounds while turning the ball over 21 times, especially against the Grizzlies with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Memphis also made plays. They finished with 13 steals compared to the Thunder's 3. They also finished with 22 assists on 36 baskets with only 11 turnovers. Not to mention they had two players combine for 50-15-14 (Conley/Gasol).
A loss is never good, but at the end of the day, it's the playoffs and a series doesn't really start until somebody wins on the road. Now it's time to see if Oklahoma City can return the favor.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?
Two things: defensive rebounding and turnovers.
You can't give up 16 offensive boards and turn it over 21 times against any team in the NBA. Even the Bobcats. Well, maybe not the Bobcats, but definitely the Grizzlies.
The Thunder have to box out better and play with more efficiency on offense if they hope to steal a game in Memphis over the weekend.
What does this game tell us about what to expect for game 3?
I would expect another dogfight in Game 3. These teams are pretty evenly matched, even with the Thunder missing Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder made costly mistakes on the glass and with the ball in their hands. With three days in between games, they know what they have to do to correct their mishaps and will likely clean things up going into Games 3 and 4 in Memphis.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 36 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists.
Thunder Down Under: Derek Fisher, 19 points (4-5 3PT Shooting)
Thunder Blunder: Nick Collison, 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assits, 4 turnovers, 6 fouls
Thunder Plunderer: Mike Conley, 26 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists.
Next game: Game 3 at Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, May 11th @ 4:00 pm CT. (Series Tied 1-1)
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