Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thunder tie series with Memphis with 3 OT thriller

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Thunder tie series with Memphis with 3 OT thriller

Posted May 10 2011 4:39PM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Trading comebacks and clutch shots, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies looked as if they might play all night.

And considering how entertaining Game 4 of their Western Conference playoff series was, it's doubtful anyone would have complained.

In the end, though, Kevin Durant and the Thunder refused to let another overtime playoff game slip away and now the series is tied 2-2.

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 hit a 3 over a couple defenders to set up the first overtime. Grizzlies rookie Greivis Vasquez hit an off-balance, one-handed 3 setting up the second overtime, and it was Marc Gasol's 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 led the Thunder with 40 points and only three turnovers in more than 51 minutes of play. James Harden added 19, and Daequan Cook had 10. Durant, Westbrook and Harden played the most minutes in a single game in their pro careers. For Memphis, Zach Randolph 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.

Randolph led Memphis with 34 points and 16 rebounds. Gasol had 26 and 21 rebounds. O.J. Mayo had 18 points and Conley 16 before both fouled out. Vasquez had 14.

"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."

Thunder forward Nick Collison called it the craziest game he has played.

"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 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 playoff game was Dec. 1, 1990, when the then-Sonics lost 130-124 to Portland.

Thunder-Grizzlies notebook

By Marlon W. Morgan, for NBA.com

Posted Tuesday May 10, 2011 3:10AMTHE FACTS: Simply put, Game 4 between the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder will be an instant classic. Desperate not to be put on the brink of elimination, the Thunder withstood what could have been two devastating 3-pointers by Mike Conley to send the game into overtime and rookie Greivis Vasquez to send it into double overtime before finally pulling out a 133-123 win in triple-overtime to even their Western Conference semifinal series at two games apiece. It was the NBA's first triple-overtime playoff game since Chicago beat Boston, 128-127, on April 30, 2009. Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 40 points in just over 51 minutes and Kevin Durant had 35 in nearly 57 minutes. Memphis was led by big men Zach Randolph (34 points, 16 rebounds, 56 minutes) and Marc Gasol (26 points, 21 boards, 57 minutes).

QUOTABLE: "It's something people are going to be talking about for a while. I'm glad I'm a part of it. ... It's was the biggest game of my life. I just wanted to take advantage of it. I wanted to leave everything on the court and be satisfied with the results. Just the stakes of the game and the level of the competition. It definitely is one of the best games I've played in and competed in. It was a fun game.''
-- Durant.

THE STAT: How big was the Thunder's victory? History shows that teams trailing 3-1 in a best-of-seven series wind up losing 95.9 percent of the time. Conversely, team's tied at 2-2 with home court advantage, as the Thunder now has, go on to win 73.9 percent of the time.

TURNING POINT: In the first half, the Thunder was on the brink of being run out of FedExForum. The Grizzlies led by as many as 18 in the second quarter and were up 44-27 with 5:56 left in the half before the Thunder went on a 22-9 run to pull to within 53-49 at the half.

GOOD MOVE: With his team struggling offensive and down 18, Thunder coach Scott Brooks went to his small lineup, a move that ignited the team's run in the final six minutes. The Thunder began penetrating and racking up fouls on the Grizzlies, fouls that would cost them later when Conley and reserve O.J. Mayo wound up fouling out.
BAD MOVE: With the Grizzlies trailing 107-106 with 17.3 seconds remaining in the first overtime, Conley fouled out. Forced to foul again in order to get the ball back, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins inserted Mayo, who had five fouls, rather than a player not in foul trouble. Mayo immediately fouled Westbrook, thus fouling out for the remainder of the game.

ROOKIE WATCH: With Conley fouling out in the first overtime, the Grizzlies turned to rookie point guard Vasquez. Vasquez hit the biggest shot of his career, a 3 with 9.4 seconds left that sent the game into the second overtime. He finished the game with 14 points, two assists and four rebounds.

HOT: Westbrook has taken a lot of heat for his decision-making during this series. But Game 4 clearly was his best all-around game. The Thunder wound up needed every one of his 40 points, but more importantly, Westbrook had just three turnovers in his more than 51 minutes on the court.

NOT: The Grizzlies got virtually no offense from Tony Allen and Sam Young. While Allen had just six points, missing seven of his 10 shots from the floor, Young was scoreless, missing all four of his shot attempts.

QUOTABLE II: "I think both teams were a little fatigued toward the end. It was a tough game. We've got to learn how to take care of leads better. It's a tough loss. You've got to give them credit. They played well and hit big shots. Their two star players hit big shots toward the end of the game.''
-- Grizzlies forward Randolph.

NOTABLE: With Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka in foul trouble most of the game, the Thunder got some big minutes out of reserve Nazr Mohammed, who gave them 20 minutes in which he scored seven points and had four rebounds. ... While Gasol and Randolph carried the offensive load for most of the game, it was evident that fatigue was setting in. The two combined for 11 of the Grizzlies' 18 turnovers. ... At one point, the Grizzlies held a 28-8 edge in points in the paint. The Thunder wound up winning that battle, 56-50. ... The Grizzlies held the lead a basket by Westbrook gave his team a 67-66 lead with 5:15 left in the third quarter. From there, there were 13 lead changes. ... The loss was the first at home for the Grizzlies during this postseason.

UP NEXT: Game 5 will be at 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

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