Box Score | Grizzly Bear Blues
There's your highlight. In what was a truly memorable game - thanks largely to that ridiculous fallaway four-point play by Kevin Durant - the Memphis Grizzlies somehow still had an answer no matter how many punches the Oklahoma City Thunder threw, prevailing 111-105 in OT.
Memphis led nearly throughout regulation (except for a short span in the third quarter) and seemed to be controlling the pace to their liking, taking a 92-88 lead with 1:58 to play. That's when things got crazy.
Russell Westbrook, despite being hot-and-cold with his shot all night, buried a 3-pointer that he had no business making, cutting the lead to one. Kendrick Perkins locked down Randolph in the post on the other end, and Thabo Sefolosha came in just before the shot clock expired to knock the ball lose and feed Durant on the break for a thunderous dunk. One-point lead.
Just as they had done all game, though, Memphis responded, grabbing an offensive rebound and finding a wide-open Mike Miller, who went 2012 NBA Finals on the Thunder and drained a 3-pointer to put Memphis back up. The Grizzlies extended the lead to five with 18 seconds, seemingly putting the game out of reach.
That's when Durant hit that absurd shot and the subsequent free throw, cutting it back to one. It was the type of shot that, had the Thunder prevailed, would have been replayed for years to come. Just another addition to the legend of Kevin Durant.
Humorously enough, after Mike Conley missed one of two free throws and kept the Thunder within two, it was Kendrick Perkins that had a historic shot on his own. Granted, it's Kendrick Perkins so any shot could qualify as "huge," but after Westbrook missed a potential game-winning three, Perkins gathered the offensive rebound and banked in the putback as time expired. Overtime. Perkins comes through. Just like they drew it up.
All the credit goes to the Grizzlies though, who could have easily seen that outrageous final sequence as a sign that this game wasn't meant to be. Instead, they started out on a 6-0 run and the Thunder just ran out of answers.
Durant had a chance to put the Thunder up one with 35 seconds to play, but he missed one of the free throws, and so with the game tied at 105-105, the Grizzlies drew up a brilliant play that resulted in an easy dunk for Zach Randolph.
A travel by Serge Ibaka on what was a brilliantly drawn-up play by Scott Brooks negated a chance to tie, and Courtney Lee hit both free throws on the other end to seal the deal.
It's a loss that will certainly energize the Grizzlies who, again, had a response at every single turn. The series now shifts to Memphis where the Grizzlies have won 14 straight.
For the Thunder, it means they have a series on their hands. They knew Memphis would be a tough matchup, and with the way the Grizzlies controlled the pace tonight on the road, OKC will need to find a way to get back to using their athleticism to make it a more up and down contest, That won't be easy heading into the Grindhouse.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Ughhhh. So close. It had the potential to be an all-time memorable contest, with iconic highlights down the stretch. It also would have essentially buried the Grizzlies, who did everything right tonight and, had they lost, would have no doubt been demoralized.
That's also a takeaway for OKC here, though. Memphis played their style of basketball, and OKC matched up right with them. Unlike in Game 1, when the Thunder's style overwhelmed the Grizzlies, the Thunder were able to handle the slower pace and make a game of it.
It's still going to be in the Thunder's best interest to speed it back up, if possible, because when the game gets going like that, they can cruise past the slower Grizzlies. Still, it's going to be tough to do that in Memphis, so it will be up to the Thunder to learn from this one and make the necessary adjustments.
The biggest difference came in transition, where the Thunder absolutely took it to the Grizzlies in Game 1. OKC would grab defensive rebounds and, with even one Grizzly under the hoop, would force the action on the other end, This resulted in odd man rushes and open looks.
Tonight, the Grizzlies did a much better job not getting caught underneath the hoop on misses. They also did a much better job not missing as much. It cut the Thunder's transition points in half from Game 1, and made every basket that much tougher.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?
The lack of transition offense was obviously the biggest, as the Thunder were forced to take contested shots out of halfcourt sets seemingly every time down the court. As a team, they shot just 37-93 (39.8 percent) to Memphis' 43-87 (49.4 percent).
Tony Allen was an absolute fiend guarding Kevin Durant, bothering him at every turn and never allowing him to find his rhythm until late in that fourth quarter. After three quarters, Durant had just 16 points on 18 shots. If Durant stood on the opposing block after a Memphis make, Allen was right there with him. If Durant ran to the right elbow, Allen ran to the right elbow. It was very clear that his only objective was to make Kevin Durant work to touch the ball every single time, and he succeeded as well as anyone ever has in doing so.
To Durant's credit, he found his flow when he needed it, finishing with 36 points and 11 rebounds thanks to a number of huge shots down the stretch. Still, for him to be controlled like that through the first three quarters, the Thunder's offense struggled to get into any rhythm without Durant leading the way.
Charles Barkley made his comments at halftime saying Durant has to be the Thunder's leading scorer for the Thunder to win, and while that obviously opened the floodgates for all of the Westbrook-bashers, but the sentiment wasn't that far off. The Thunder's offense thrives when its best player is playing better than everyone else. That's not rocket science.
That doesn't mean the Thunder can't win without Durant outscoring everyone else though, it just means he has to be the one leading the way. With the Thunder forced to play a lot of the game in the halfcourt, Durant was working to get open in halfcourt sets. Where the Thunder often finds success is in Durant running point and the offense circling around him. That didn't seem to be as much of a focus tonight, with the Thunder going far more traditional having the pint guards bring it up and playing around that.
It's not the reason they lost, but it's an example of how the Thunder played into Memphis' hands. In Game 1, the Thunder rebounds would get the board and outlet to the closest guy, usually Westbrook or Durant, and run from there. In Game 2, that stopped, and while Memphis' defense deserves some credit for doing a better job getting back, the Thunder also had chances to force the issue but failed to do so.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
Fast break points at just 16-10 once again shows that lack of pace for the Thunder, as does the 56-36 advantage for Memphis in points in the paint. The Grizzlies' halfcourt execution was much better, as they seemed more willing to use the entire shotclock to get a good shot. They made extra passes and had their guys in better position to get second chance points.
One other thing, OKC had just 8 turnovers. That's obviously a great number for a team that averaged 15 a game during the regular season. But I wonder if it is a false positive. When the Thunder is thriving is when they are playing freely and moving the ball quickly and taking chances. It results in more turnovers, but for the most part, those turnovers come from the right place - one that is looking to force this issue, albeit a bit ineffectively at times. The Thunder didn't turn it over much tonight mostly because they were stuck playing slow and making safe passes, which didn't result in very many open looks.
Those are traditional measures, but if Memphis can keep the fast-break disparity that low and the PIP disparity that high, it means they are playing their style, and that doesn't bode well for OKC.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
The Thunder will need to have a short memory for this series. They had every opportunity to win tonight, but they also didn't do nearly enough to take that game from a hardworking Memphis team.
Still, it's going to be tough to look at that film the next two days and think of how many chances the Thunder could have come out and gotten a win and made their road through Memphis that much easier. If the Thunder dwell too much on what they didn't do tonight, they could be in for a repeat performance on Thursday.
Instead, they'll need to take what they did wrong an learn from it. Get back to the gameplan of playing freely with the ball. In many ways, OKC's 8 turnovers are a number you wouldn't hate to see go up if it meant they got back to playing their brand of uptempo basketball.
It would have been a truly remarkable win, but instead it's a 1-1 series and it's only going to get tougher. It's going to be up to the leaders to refocus as they hit the road. The good news? This team has been down this road before.
- RUSSELL WESTBROOK POSTGAME OUTFIT WATCH: Game 2: Grade: C (The all-red Game 1 was C-). I know it sounds ridiculous to say this about an all-red and now and all-turquoise outfit, but these seem pretty bland by Russell Westbrook standards. Where's the trendy jackets, oddly-patterned shirts, and/or rolled up jeans? He gets a little more credit for this one since the top is more than just a plain T-shirt. Still, I hope this is just a warm up, Russ.
- That Westbrook dunk that didn't count because Perk set
anotheran illegal screen? His head was at the rim!!!
- The Serge Ibaka Block Party is so much fun in the playoffs. The recovery on that second one is unreal. via @JDonSports
- Westbrook/Ibaka at the half: 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting, 8 rebounds. With Kevin Durant being hounded by Tony Allen - who was absolutely fantastic shutting him down - it was key for those two to carry the offense. They did just that. Particularly impressive was Ibaka, who didn't even have all that many plays drawn up for him, but had three offensive rebounds in the half to find himself opportunities.
- That foul call at 3:33 in the 3rd on Westbrook when he went over the top to pull down KD's air ball over the top of the Grizzlies rebounder was sneaky huge. OKC was driving and it would have put them up 62-59 (their biggest lead of the game). Instead the Grizzlies went on a 7-0 run to go back up six late in the third.
- Pretty sure if the Pacers collapse isn't doing it already, that Gatorade commercial when he yells all loud and crazy is going have us all really over Paul George by the end of this whole thing.
- KD after three: 16 points on 18 shots. Tony Allen was seriously incredible, you guys.
- Mike Miller: sent to Earth to destroy Thunder fans' souls.
- I had a nice footnote in here about how much I appreciated the refs letting the teams play. Then Durant didn't get the call on that 3-pointer at the end of regulation. Then Durant didn't get the call on that obvious block by Conley late in overtime that would have put the Thunder up one. Then the Thunder didn't get the call when Gasol kicked it after Durant didn't get that call. You hate to nitpick in such a crazy game, but it's hard to see how Tony Allen is allowed to basically grab Durant on every possession and get away with it, while LaMarcus Aldridge can't breathe on James Harden without a foul being called. The league needs to come up with a clear-cut criteria where games are either called loose or tight, because this in between is becoming more of a storyline than it should be.
- Want to say one last thing about Serge Ibaka, who was terrific for most of the game. His defense was obviously affecting the Grizzlies offense, but after he seemed to injure his leg late in the third quarter, he became far less effective in the fourth. Who knows if it was the injury or just a coincidence, as Ibaka tends to disappear in close games, but his physicality and ability to roll hard to the rim opens up so much for the Thunder offense, and while his defense was fantastic, he needs to stay aggressive on offense for the Thunder to have a shot.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant: 36 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, ridiculous 4-point play.
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka: 15 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks.
Thunder Blunder: Reggie Jackson: 2 points, 0-for-5 shooting, had zero impact on the offense whatsoever
Thunder Plunderer: Tony Allen: 8 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, blew up countless Thunder possessions. (Honorable Mention to Beno Udrih with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting)
Game 3: at Memphis Grizzlies, Thursday, April 24, 7:00 P.M. CDT