At least Reggie Jackson showed up last night, because it didn’t seem as though Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook bothered to do so, at least offensively. Although I have to give credit to the entire squad for the team defense displayed last night. Without it, Jackson’s 32 points probably would have been a moot point as we talked about the Thunder’s 3-1 deficit.
To be honest though, the Thunder should count themselves very lucky that they escaped The Grindhouse with the W, considering that the previous 15 games played at FedExForum (I’d been spelling it wrong this whole time. FedExForum is, weirdly, all one word.) all resulted in Grizzlies victories. The last team to win at The Grindhouse before last night’s Thunder victory was the Mavericks back on Feb. 5th.
With that noted, teams rarely outgrind the Grizzlies, especially in The Grindhouse, but that’s exactly what the Thunder did last night. They managed to beat the Grizzlies at their own game, holding them under 20 points in each of the first 3 quarters to help secure a 90-89 OT win. Again, it’s a damn good thing Thunder D showed up last night, because teams that have a mere 90 points after 53 minutes of play are usually on the losing end. Although to be fair, teams that score a total of 80 points in regulation are usually too far behind for overtime to even be a possibility.
Durant really seems to be losing his shooting stroke as the series wears on. After shooting 13-for-25 (52%) in the series opener, he’s dropped to 12-for-28 (48.9%) in Game 2, 10-for-27 (37%) in Game 3, and an absolutely abysmal 5-for-21 (23.8%) last night. We can’t expect Jackson to bail him out of these games either. If his play doesn’t pick up, I honestly don’t see how the Thunder expect to move on to the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
Another thing that is beginning to irk me is how no one can ever seem to find Serge Ibaka at the offensive end. We looked at Durant’s shooting numbers, now we look at Westbrook’s, then we compare them to Ibaka’s.
Westbrook: 8-of-19 (42.1%) in Game 1, 11-of-28 (39.3%) in Game 2, 9-of-26 (34.6%) in Game 3, and 6-of-24 (25%) last night. Just looking at his numbers alone, you can see his offensive effectiveness trailing off as well.
Meanwhile, Ibaka has posted percentages like 6-of-8 (75%) in Game 1, 6-of-12 (50%) in Game 2, 6-of-10 (60%) in Game 3, and 6-of-11 (54.5%) last night. He’s shot 50% or better in every game so far. Why the hell is he only taking 10 to 12 shots a game? Why does he rarely ever see the ball in the 4th quarter or overtime? It’s not just the Durant & Westbrook show. Ibaka should be considered the third guy in the Thunder’s Big 3.
Oddly, three separate double-doubles on the Grizzlies side couldn’t secure a win for them. Marc Gasol had a 23-point, 11-rebound double-double, while Mike Conley posted 14 points and 10 assists. Even bench player Tony Allen posted a 14-point, 13-rebound double-double. But I have to give Thunder D credit for the way they limited Zach Randolph. A man who averaged a double-double over the course of the regular season managed a grand total of 11 points last night. And with only 7 boards, Randolph didn’t even come close to a double-double last night.
Game 5 is coming back to The Peake this Tuesday for an 8pm CST tip-off. Now that the series is knotted up 2 games apiece, Game 5 has officially been rendered a pivotal one. They win this, and the Thunder are in the driver’s seat, one win away from advancing to the conference semis. They lose, and they’re backs are against the wall for two straight must-win matchups. I will definitely stay locked into this series. It’s getting every bit as good as I hoped it would.