I don’t see this article being particularly lengthy this time. While the Grizzlies “grind-it-out” style suits them well, and sets them up for wins, it is decidedly boring to watch as a spectator. The Grizzlies basically controlled the pace from start to finish, and save for a couple of impressive made baskets by the Thunder near and at the end of regulation, there was nothing really of note. So I suppose I’ll provide video of the moments that made Thunder fans cheer in that game. (There aren’t many.)
The Thunder celebrate Kendrick Perkins’ crazy put-back buzzer-beater.
Here’s video of Kevin Durant’s “I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened” 4-point play:
Without that, this “he-really-just-hit-a-buzzer-beater” move by Perkins would not have been possible:
Unfortunately, those two amazing plays simply delayed the inevitable, as the pace slowed to molasses once again for the OT period. The Grizzlies got the grinder they wanted, and tied the series 1-1 with a 111-105 victory.
Kevin Durant’s 36-point, 11-rebound double-double couldn’t secure the win.
Durant had 36 points and 11 rebounds. Serge Ibaka also had a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double. Russell Westbrook dropped 25 points. What killed the Thunder was their lack of bench production. 14 bench points were scored by a total of five different Thunder players. Normally we can get that kind of production from just one bench player.
Serge Ibaka’s 15-point, 11-rebound double-double kept it close, but failed to secure the W.
Zach Randolph’s 25 points led all Grizzlies scorers. While Marc Gasol and Courtney Lee dropped 16 points apiece, the real damage was done via Mike Conley’s 19-point, 12-assist double-double. And Nick Calathes’ suspension opened the door for Beno Udrih, who scored 14 points off of the Grizzlies bench.
Russell Westbrook’s intensity will be heavily required throughout the remainder of the series. Say what you will about Westbrook, but he’s the aggressor that Durant isn’t.
Game 3 is coming to us tonight from FedEx Forum, affectionately nicknamed “The Grindhouse” in regards to the Grizzlies’ style of play. And with Saturday’s Game 4 also coming from “The Grindhouse”, the Thunder will either have to figure out how to win through the grind, or break up the grind a bit and start getting out in transition. If they don’t do either in these next two games, the Thunder will find themselves in the unenviable position of staring down a 3-1 series deficit as they come back home, and only 8 NBA teams in history have taken a series in the face of that deficit. The last one to do so was the Suns over the Lakers, and that was 8 years ago. Tonight’s game is featured as the front-end of TNT’s double-header, or you can catch the game via WWLS The Sports Animal.
Is anyone really surprised that these two teams will butt heads in yet another playoff series? This marks the 3rd time in a 4-year span that these two teams will square off. It’s almost as if these two teams are linked.
Banner celebrating the Thunder’s 4th consecutive Northwest Division Championship.
2011 was the first meeting. It was the second trip to the playoffs for the Thunder, who were itching to prove they belonged there after pushing the Lakers to 6 games in the 2010 playoffs only to lose at literally the last second due to Pau Gasol’s tip-in. They did so by downing the Nuggets in 5 games to move on to the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Another Gasol by the name of Marc was looking to make an impact for the Grizzlies coming into this series as well. The Grizzlies had just knocked off the Spurs, requiring 6 games to seal the series.
PG Russell Westbrook: 21.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 6.9 APG
The series itself didn’t start well for the Thunder either, as the Grizzlies came into Oklahoma City Arena (as it was known at the time, because Chesapeake didn’t acquire the naming rights until July of that year) and took Game 1 in rather convincing fashion, 114-101 in a game were the Thunder were outscored in all but the 4th quarter, which ended in a tie. Game 2 saw the Thunder redeem themselves at OKC Arena with a 111-102 final. However, due to the Game 1 loss, the Grizzlies were now the ones with the home court advantage, and it would require the Thunder taking a game at FedEx Forum in Memphis to reclaim it.
SG Thabo Sefolosha: 6.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.5 APG
The first attempt at that didn’t go so well, as the Grizzlies took it 101-93. Fortunately for the Thunder, it required an OT period for the Grizzlies to get it done. Game 4 saw 3 overtime periods played to determine a winner, which ended up being the Thunder. The Thunder used a 14-4 3OT period to seal a 133-123 victory to knot the series up at 2 games apiece. This meant that Game 5 at OKC Arena would be pivotal to the series.
SF Kevin Durant: 32 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.5 APG
The Thunder took that pivotal Game 5 using some super-stingy defense. The end result was a 99-72 victory that finally saw one of the squads build up a winning streak after trading wins each game. That win put the Grizzlies behind the 8 Ball (No. Not the Memphis rapper. Although chalk that up to an odd coincidence.), because now it was win or go home.
PF Serge Ibaka: 15.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1 APG
Game 6 was the last one of the series to be played at FedEx Forum, and the Grizzlies responded beautifully, taking Game 6 95-83 to force the always-decisive Game 7 back at OKC Arena.
C Kendrick Perkins: 3.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.1 APG
I really feel the Game 7 of this series instilled much of the confidence and swagger you see in the Thunder today. By taking Game 7 105-90, the Thunder proved to themselves and the rest of the world that they could survive tough postseason tests against top competition.
PG Mike Conley: 17.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 6 APG
Last year’s postseason was the one where the Grizzlies got their revenge. taking advantage of Russell Westbrook’s absence after an injury suffered when a Rocket by the name of Patrick Beverly (who is now officially Public Enemy #1 in the OKC area) tore the meniscus (the cartilage in your knee that absorbs shock) in Westbrook’s right knee going for a steal after the whistle was already blown. With Westbrook out, despite the Thunder being able to take Game 1 93-91, the Grizzlies went on to win the next 4 straight, taking the series in 5 games.
SG Courtney Lee: 9.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.5 APG
I was going to go into some numbers for this upcoming series, but if you ask me, John Schuhmann already did great work of that in Sekou Smith’s Hang Time Blog on NBA.com.
Nick Calathes. Rookie reserve PG for the Grizzlies who will most likely miss the entire postseason after being served a 20-game suspension yesterday for failing a drug test.
As far as this postseason series goes, I wouldn’t count on a sweep. As a matter of fact, if you ask me, don’t be surprised to see this series go to 7 games once again. Both teams feature stout defenses and improved perimeter shooting. I still see the Thunder taking this series, I just don’t see it being the walk in the park some Thunder fans are trying to make it out to be. My prediction: Thunder in 7. (I just see them needing all 7 games to finally put away a Grizzlies team that can be rather pesky. Never sell your competition short.)
Russell Westbrook and Mike Conley square off. Both Westbrook and Conley were the leading scorers for their respective teams (Westbrook posted 27 points, as Conley dropped 20.).
If you were to tell me that Westbrook had this particular game circled on his calendar, and that he was chomping at the bit for the chance to hit the floor against this Grizzlies team, I would be inclined to believe you. Although several months have passed since the Grizzlies ousted the Thunder from the Western Conference Semi-Finals in a dominating 4-1 fashion, I wouldn’t doubt Westbrook remembers it like it was yesterday. Sadly however, it isn’t from the experience that Westbrook draws his memory from, as he never got to play a second of the series. A collision with Patrick Beverly during Game 2 of the Thunder-Rockets series had torn the meniscus in Westbrook’s right knee, and effectively ended his season. That one play not only made Patrick Beverly Public Enemy #1 in the state of Oklahoma, but essentially reshaped the entire Western Conference.
Westbrook skys for the lay-in as Jamaal Franklin is reduced to the role of dread-filled spectator.
Last night, Westbrook made sure his presence was felt.
Alternate angle of the Westbrook lay-in attempt.
However, despite the Thunder being without Thabo Sefolosha for the second straight game, the Grizzlies knew they were about to be in for a taste of what the Thunder went though in their last playoff series. What had the Grizzlies concerned was that they would be without Marc Gasol, who is out indefinitely with a sprained MCL, as the low post combo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are one of the Grizzlies’ biggest strengths.
Zach Randolph attempts a fadeaway jumper over Steven Adams. Randolph finished with 17 for the evening.
The Grizzlies started okay, and even held a 10-5 lead with 7:41 to play in the 1st. Unfortunately, that was as good as it would get for them, as the Thunder answered immediately with a 16-1 run that pushed the Thunder lead to 10 (21-11) with 3:43 remaining in the opening quarter. Memphis subsequently answered with a 9-2 run that cut the Thunder lead to 3 (23-20) with 1:10 to go in the 1st. Two Kevin Durant free throws, followed by two Mike Conley free throws, put the score at 25-22, and ended the 1st with a 3-point Thunder lead.
Kevin Durant with the nasty dunk as Mike Conley and Kosta Koufos can only watch. Durant finished the game with 18 points, and Koufos dropped 12 for the Grizzlies.
The 2nd quarter started off beautifully for the Thunder, as a Jeremy Lamb alley oop off of a Reggie Jackson assist pushed the Thunder lead to 5 (27-22). But then the Grizzlies responded with an immediate 8-2 run that allowed them to reclaim a 1-point lead (30-29) with 10:21 to play in the first half. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, that would be the last lead they would see for the rest of the game, as Jackson reclaimed the lead for the Thunder a mere 14 seconds later off of a running jump shot. Later in the quarter, with the Thunder clinging to a mere 3-point lead (40-37) with 4:19 remaining on the clock, they spark a 17-4 run to end the first half with a 57-42 lead.
Jeremy Lamb jumps up to defend a floater from Jamaal Franklin. Lamb contributed 18 points from the Thunder bench.
This time, the Thunder had no intentions of letting their opponent stick around. The Grizzlies fought as hard as they could, but the Thunder pretty much had this game locked up once they established a 24-point lead (87-63) with 2:11 to play in the 3rd. Durant, Westbrook, and Kendrick Perkins all sat out through the entirety of the 4th quarter, as their presence was no longer required to finish off the Grizzlies. Once the final buzzer sounded, the Thunder walked out of FedEx Forum with a 116-100 victory that improved their record to 17-4, while dropping the Grizzlies below .500 (10-11).
Zach Randolph looks on as Jon Leuer challenges Serge Ibaka. Ibaka finished with 12 points, and Leuer led all Grizzlies bench scorers with 17.
There were no double-doubles whatsoever from either side last night, but they obviously weren’t required for the Thunder. Westbrook’s 27 points led all scorers to take the floor last night, while Durant dropped 18 points, and Serge Ibaka contributed 12. 35 of the Thunder’s bench points came from just two players. Reggie Jackson posted 17 points, as Jeremy Lamb splashed in 18.
Reggie Jackson drives past Nick Calathes. Jackson dropped 17 points coming off of the Thunder bench.
Conley’s 20 points lead the Grizzlies in scoring last night, as Zach Randolph added 17. Center Kosta Koufos managed 12 points, and Jerryd Bayless, the man most NBA draft analysts expected to be picked over Westbrook, threw down 11. Jon Leuer’s 17 points led the Grizzlies in bench scoring. Although the decision to sit Ed Davis over a left ankle sprain, and Quincy Pondexter for a tarsal navicular stress fracture left the Grizzlies bench very short-handed. Most analysts agree that Pondexter is done for the season.
Jerryd Bayless goes for the floater. Bayless finished with 11 points.
This win actually marked the first time all season that the Thunder won the second game of a back-to-back, which surprisingly makes them the last team out of all 30 NBA squads to accomplish the feat this season. It was nice to see them pull that off on the road as well.
Leuer tries for the long 2-pointer as Durant defends.
Now the Thunder head back home to host the Lakers this Friday. The Lakers may not be doing particularly well at the moment, but they are still a team that always requires pre-game preparation. The game will be coming to you from Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tip-off time is 7pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and ESPN.