Thunder tie series with Memphis with 3 OT thrillerBy TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer Tuesday, May 10, 2011
And considering how entertaining Game 4 of their Western Conference playoff series was, it’s doubtful anyone would have complained.
Durant scored six of his 35 points in the third overtime, and the Thunder scored the final 10 points to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 133-123 in a thriller that started Monday night and ended early Tuesday morning.
It was the second straight overtime game in the series and the NBA’s first triple-overtime playoff game since Chicago downed Boston 128-127 on April 30, 2009.
Durant summed it up best, calling it a game that will go down as one of the best in NBA history.
“It was fun. It was something I can tell my kids that I played in a great game like this,” Durant said with a smile.
Fans got on their feet late in regulation and stayed standing until the end, though many started trickling to the exits as the clock ticked well past midnight local time.
With the victory, the Thunder regained home-court advantage and tied this Western Conference semifinal at two games apiece by handing the Grizzlies their first loss in Memphis this postseason. Game 5 is on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City. The winner of the series will play the Dallas Mavericks in the conference finals.
“We’ve got to keep fighting, though,” Durant said. “It’s tied up right now. We’re taking it back to our house. So we’ll see how we handle it.”
The Thunder and Grizzlies went to overtime for the third time this season.
The Thunder blew a 16-point lead in losing Game 3 101-93 in overtime. This time, Memphis was up 18, lost that and fell behind 10 in the fourth quarter only to rally.
Memphis’ Mike Conley(notes) hit a 3 over a couple defenders to set up the first overtime. Grizzlies rookie Greivis Vasquez(notes) hit an off-balance, one-handed 3 setting up the second overtime, and it was Marc Gasol’s(notes) scoring to help extend this game five more minutes.
“Both teams kept coming back and fighting and fighting and fighting. It became a matter of just not having enough bullets as the game wore on,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “Nobody wanted to go home. Nobody wanted to lose.”
Russell Westbrook(notes) led the Thunder with 40 points and only three turnovers in more than 51 minutes of play. James Harden(notes) added 19, and Daequan Cook(notes) had 10. Durant, Westbrook and Harden played the most minutes in a single game in their pro careers. For Memphis, Zach Randolph(notes) and Gasol posted career highs in minutes.
The Grizzlies ran out of energy in the third overtime as they hit 1 of 9 from the floor. The Thunder outscored Memphis 14-4 in the final overtime.
“We thought it was destined for us to win, but ain’t nothing given to you in the NBA,” Randolph said. “You’ve got to go out and take it.”
“The good thing about our team is we felt like we fought so hard we earned that game, so we didn’t want to give in,” Collison said. “It would have been easy to give in at that time, but we didn’t do it. It’s a huge win for us and says a lot about us.”
The Thunder had their chances to win at the end of regulation and each overtime.
Westbrook’s jumper hit the rim before the buzzer to end the first 48 minutes. Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, had a 3 fall short of the basket at the end of the first overtime, and Westbrook’s long jumper grazed the front of the rim at the buzzer ending the second overtime.
“We had the game won a few times,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They made some incredible shots. That wasn’t bad execution. Down the stretch, they made some incredible shots. That’s what NBA players do. They make tough shots, and both teams did that tonight.”
In the third overtime, the Thunder finally took control.
Fatigue caught up with the Grizzlies counting on Randolph and Gasol to score with Conley and Mayo fouled out.
“It was a great, great, great showcase for the fans, but we needed it more than they did,” Grizzlies guard Tony Allen(notes) said. “But they showed poise, and they were the aggressor. They wanted it more than we did.”
Oklahoma City, the NBA’s best free-throw shooting team, got back into this one at the line, where much of this game was spent.
The Thunder hit 15 of 17 shots in the second quarter alone and finished 31 of 39 in regulation. Durant, who missed his lone attempt in Game 3, was 16 of 18 at the line himself. The Thunder went 42 of 50 at the line. Memphis hit 37 of 40.
Memphis led by as much as 18 points when Mayo scored with 8:21 left in the second quarter at 37-19. Then the Thunder went small and sent one Memphis player after another to the bench in foul trouble. They hit 15 of 17 in the second quarter to pull within 53-49 at halftime.
Durant completed the comeback by tying it at 61 with 7:30 left on a pull-up jumper that was just his third made field goal, which he celebrated with a fist pump.
Westbrook put Oklahoma City up for the first time in the game with a driving layup with 5:16 left in the third, and that set up the game that no one wanted to end.
NOTES: Teams with the home-court advantage and the series tied at 2 finish off the series with a win 73.9 percent of the time, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … This game matched the Grizzlies’ longest game since moving from Vancouver to Memphis. The Grizzlies played a triple-OT game Nov. 1, 2006, and lost 118-117 to the Knicks. For the Thunder franchise, the team’s last triple-OT game was Dec. 1, 1990, when the then-Sonics lost 130-124 to Portland.