Grizzlies top Thunder in OKC
By Ronald Tillery
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A pair of teams that put together a playoff classic three years ago might just be working on another.
That could have easily been a prevailing notion Monday night following the Grizzlies' 111-105 Game 2 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
After a breath-taking display on defense by a certain No. 9, five periods and a miraculous yet clutch four-point play, the Grizzlies head back to Memphis with their best-of-seven first-round series knotted at 1-1.
"That's why the playoffs are so fun," Griz guard Courtney Lee said. "It's a different atmosphere. As a player and a competitor, you want to play in this type of atmosphere."
The Grizzlies had to work long and hard to rebound from a demoralizing Game 1 defeat. But that's what many onlookers predicted how this Western Conference playoff matchup would be: long and hard.
This marked the sixth playoff overtime game the Griz have played against the Thunder. Memphis won four of the previous five. The Grizzlies' only loss so far when these teams grace the fans with extra playoff basketball came in that three-overtime classic in FedExForum during the 2011 Western Conference semifinals.
"There were a lot of big plays," Griz coach Dave Joerger said. "Not just the-ball-go-in kind of plays, but loose balls. Tremendous game to be a part of- passionate playoff basketball with great competition."
Griz forward Zach Randolph scored a layup with 26 seconds left in the overtime, and that proved to be the game-winner after the score was knotted at 105. Randolph led the Grizzlies' offense by scoring eight of his team-high 25 points in the extra session.
Tony Allen, wearing No. 9 in Beale Street Blue, spearheaded clutch defense that lasted the entire game. Just ask Thunder forward Kevin Durant, whom Allen harassed into 12 of 28 shooting and a night filled with more frustration than feel-good looks at the basket.
"They made more plays than we did," Durant said. "But we're not panicking at all."
Allen said he just followed the game plan.
"Basically, it's going to be a slugfest," Allen said. "We're going to pound it and they're going to run it. Whoever executes the best is going to win it."
Oklahoma City shot 39.8 percent and never led by more than two points. Still, the Thunder had chances to steal a game the Griz had under control most of the night.
Regulation ended with a Kendrick Perkins put-back basket that knotted the score at 99 as the horn sounded. The end of the fourth quarter couldn't have been wilder.
Memphis led 99-97 when the Thunder began its final possession with 12 seconds left. Russell Westbrook went for the win with a 3-pointer and missed. But Perkins grabbed the rebound and scored on his only field goal attempt of the game.
Part of the reason the Thunder were in position to tie the score was because Mike Conley converted just three of six free throws in the final 30 seconds.
Still, Memphis led 98-93 with just 18 seconds left to play. But Thunder forward Kevin Durant then made the most dramatic play of the night by converting an improbable four-point play.
Durant caught a pass from Westbrook in the corner after Westbrook saved the ball from going out of bounds. It was another busted play for the Thunder -- one of several it had down the stretch -- and Durant just threw up a heave over Marc Gasol.
The referees tagged Gasol with a foul, and Durant calmly sank the foul shot to cut the Griz lead to 98-97. Conley then split a pair of free throws and that set up Perkins' heroics.
"I thought we had great composure," Randolph said. "It showed that we've been there before. We held together when we could have easily put our heads down."
Allen wouldn't allow the Griz to be anything but energetic. The Griz reserve swingman aggressively fronted Durant to deny him the ball, and contested every shot.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks questioned whether the Griz were being allowed to play with too much contact.
"That's part of their game plan," Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. "They do a good job of getting their hands on you. We've just got to play through it."
The Griz looked far from the jittery bunch that dug a 25-point hole at the start of Game 1. They came out playing a more deliberate and slower pace and executed on both ends of the court.
Memphis' bench also redeemed itself from being virtually nonexistent in Game 1 to 33 points (14 from Beno Udrih).
"Our overall activity was better than (in Game 1)," Joerger said.