By Nicholas Filipas
The Memphis Grizzlies needed five extra minutes in overtime to survive and beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-105 of Game 2 and tied the series at 1-1.
After an embarrassing offensive night in Game 1 on Saturday, the Grizzlies found their shooting stroke and answered every basket Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook made on the other end.
While the big men struggled early, Memphis rode on the backs of Mike Conley and Beno Udrih for points while Tony Allen bothered Durant all night long and was the X factor in key possessions that got the Grizzlies second chance looks.
Randolph led Memphis with 25 points, six rebounds on 10-20 shooting. Mike Conley added 19 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds, and both Courtney Lee and Marc Gasol scored 16 points. Beno Udrih came off the bench for 14 points in a well-earned 14 minutes of play and Tony Allen went for eight points, eight rebounds and four steals.
Kevin Durant had a game-high 36 points, 11 rebounds, Russell Westbrook scored 29 points, and eight assists and Serge Ibaka had 15 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Outscoring OKC 24-16 in the first quarter, it was apparent right from the opening tip that Memphis wasn’t going to repeat their horrid shooting from Saturday.
Conley was the main enforcer, driving inside and daring the Thunder bigs to foul him, other times he was too quick for Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins to keep up.
On defense, the Grizzlies shut down the Thunder and forced Durant and Westbrook to take tough, contested shots one right after the other. After the first 12 minutes, Memphis was shooting 40 percent from the floor while holding the Thunder to a mere 17 percent.
The Thunder wouldn’t stay cold for long, and they were knocking on Memphis’ door, stringing together multiple mini-runs and cutting the lead to a single possession.
Veteran Derek Fisher single-handily brought back the Thunder from double digits while Memphis went four minutes without a field goal. The Grizzlies didn’t back down, and had an answer in the form of driving to the hoop or getting to the foul line. Mike Miller nails a three to quiet the OKC crowd and the rest of the quarter is spent trying to stay one foot ahead of the double threat of Durant-Westbrook. The Grizzlies head into the locker room up 46-43 despite 17 points from Westbrook.
Trading more baskets, the Thunder get some lucky rolls going their way as a wide open three-point shot from Thabo Sefolosha gives the Thunder their first lead of the game since it was 6-4.
Memphis allowed OKC to feast on plenty of offensive rebounds that led to second chance points. It was a bad time for the offense to stagnate, but after a quick timeout, Conley got back to work attacking the rim with floaters and the Grizzlies were back up by single digits. Marc Gasol finds Miller open again from downtown and it caps a 8-0 run, as they hold onto a 68-65 lead with one more quarter to go.
Everything led up to a wild final quarter. With Memphis up nine, Durant and Westbrook managed to piece together spectacular shots, dunks and force the Grizzlies into throwing possessions away to steadily climb back into the thick of battle.
Randolph turned the ball over with just over a minute to play and Durant dunks to take the lead again to a rocking home crowd. Miller responds with another three and Conley sinks in three free throws to put Memphis atop by five with 18 seconds left.
Durant somehow gets a tough fading three in the corner to go while Gasol fouls him and makes it a four-point play. The Thunder foul Conley again and send him back to the line but he only makes one of two with 12 seconds left and the 99-97 lead. It was just enough time for Westbrook to chuck up a fading three-point attempt, but the rebound landed in the hands of Perkins who sank the put-back and tied the game at 99 to force overtime.
In overtime, it was big basket after big basket and no lead was safe. Perkins and Gasol would eventually foul out and the Thunder would again be breathing down the Grizzlies’ necks down one, but defensive stops by Allen on Durant and a couple of three-point plays from Randolph seal the deal.
Game 3 heads to Memphis on Thursday with tip-off at 7pm. It will be broadcasted on SportsSouth and nationally on TNT.
Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.