Conley, Allen lead Grizzlies past Thunder 107-101Tuesday, Mar 8, 2011
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—The Memphis Grizzlies are showing more maturity—and resilience—when they face an opponent’s fourth-quarter rally.
Despite the Thunder threatening Memphis’ lead in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City was unable to get a key basket to overtake the Grizzlies, who won Sunday night in Dallas on Zach Randolph’s(notes) last-second shot.
“(It took) effort, grinds, a collective effort from the whole team,” Allen said. “Guys are focused and locked in. Getting back-to-back wins against these two top teams, pretty much shows that we are very ambitious.”
Randolph added 17 points for Memphis, including four free throws in the closing seconds, as the Grizzlies maintained their hold on the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The fourth-quarter resilience reflects a different team than previous years when the Grizzlies might have buckled under the pressure down the stretch. Some credit young players such as Conley, Gasol and Darrell Arthur(notes) with another year in the league. Others point to the additions of veterans Jason Williams(notes), Allen and the pick up of Shane Battier(notes) from Houston at the trade deadline.
“It’s definitely a much more mature team,” reserve guard O.J. Mayo(notes) said. “You add vets like (Williams, Allen and Battier), and they’ve pretty much been to the battlefield at high levels as far playoffs and finals.
“It brings a different mentality to our team; a much more focused locker room and a much more mature locker room.”
Russell Westbrook(notes) had 27 points and seven assists for Oklahoma City, which saw its three-game winning streak snapped. Kevin Durant(notes) finished with 23 points, while James Harden(notes) scored 16.
Oklahoma City was 6 of 12 from outside the arc after halftime, but never could overtake Memphis, which led by as many as 17 in the third quarter.
“We made some costly mistakes,” Durant said. “We always seemed to have it within two or three (points), and we couldn’t get over the hump.”
Both teams shot 52 percent in the game, but Memphis benefited from 12 Oklahoma City turnovers, including three in the fourth quarter, as the Thunder kept threatening Memphis’ lead. The closest the Thunder could get was 93-92 on Westbrook’s three-point play with 4:18 left. Baskets by Randolph and then Sam Young(notes) created the buffer Memphis needed.
“We got down 17 because our defensive effort wasn’t where it needed to be,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We gave them too many easy layups and points around the paint. We got back into it because we made some shots, but we still weren’t playing the defense that it takes to win in this league.”
The game was close through much of the first half with six ties and eight lead changes.
The Thunder never led by more than two points, while Memphis got it to 10 with under a minute to play in the half on Mayo’s 3-pointer.
Mayo’s layup off the Thunder’s sixth turnover in the half gave Memphis a 58-46 lead entering the dressing room, the Grizzlies ending the half on a 15-5 rally.
Memphis continued to extend the lead through the first part of the third period, but Durant started heating up.
Two consecutive 3-pointers put a dent in Memphis’ lead. Westbrook’s 3-pointer with the shot-clock running down, then a layup pulled the deficit to single-digits at 75-67. By the time the quarter ended, Durant had scored nine points in the period, Oklahoma City closed the quarter on a 16-6 run, and Memphis’ lead was cut to 79-73.
“We fought back,” Durant said. “We shouldn’t have dug ourselves the hole. There were some plays I think we’d love to have back.”
The rally rolled into the fourth quarter, as the Thunder continued to be successful from outside the arc. After missing all six 3-pointers in the first half, the Thunder hit six of their first seven after the break.
“In the second half, they hurt us,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “They started raining 3s. We tried to play zone, so we could stay big, but we just didn’t execute in the zone.”
That helped Oklahoma City pull close on several occasions. But Memphis was able to hold off the Thunder down the stretch.
“I think the difference is our poise under pressure,” Conley said. “I think we’ve got guys now who understand how to win. Not turn the ball over down the stretch. Not take a bad shot down the stretch. You work the mismatches when you have it, and take the opportunities when you have it.”
Notes: Harden reached double figures for the ninth straight game, all in reserve. … The last 12 games in the series have been decided either by single digits or gone to overtime. … The Thunder are 6-6 in the second game of back-to-backs. … Memphis is 12-1 against opponents playing their second game of a back-to-back, including winning all 11 in such situations at the FedExForum.