For all the spectacular players Oklahoma City Thunder conjured up, including a four-point play by Kevin Durant in the final seconds of regulation, the Memphis Grizzlies remained resolute. There was no panic in their faces or play.
And with that composure at the heart of the matter, Memphis pulled off a 111-105 overtime victory to even the first-round series at 1-1.
”Tremendous game to be a part of,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. ”I honestly can tell you that, whether you win or lose. I know that we won. But I thought it was a great game to be a part of. The game was never over. There was a lot of great plays and not just the-ball-going-in kind of plays – loose ball, passion, playoff basketball.”
Facing a roaring OKC crowd all night, Memphis would not rattle. Point guard Mike Conley played a masterful floor game, controlling the pace of play while scoring 19 points with 12 assists. His counterpart, Russell Westbrook, had his high-flying moments, but took 28 shots–a lot for a floor leader–and missed a late three in overtime that would have tied the game.
It was almost surprising it did not go in, as the Thunder made significant plays in dramatic situations much of the late stages. Durant’s was the most unlikely of plays. Down five points with 18.1 seconds left, Durant hit a 3-pointer from the corner as he was being pushed out of bounds by Marc Gasol, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Durant then converted the free throw to make it a one-point game.
Conley made one of two free throws with 12 seconds left to make it 99-97. Westbrook missed a wild 3-pointer in the closing seconds, but center Kendrick Perkins, who hadn’t made a field goal all game, scored to force overtime.
Instead of being deflated, “we regrouped,” Conley said, and took a five-point lead that OKC eventually overcame. But with 26 seconds left, Zach Randolph scored off a brilliant pass from Tony Allen to put Memphis up for good.
”We missed some shots that we could make,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. ”Give them some credit. They did a good job of putting their hands on us and we didn’t free ourselves up enough. I thought in the second half, our defense and offense gave us a chance. Unfortunately, we didn’t make a couple of key plays down the stretch.”