So Close, Sooooo Close
By Randy Renner
Grizzly brutes Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined to score just 24 points, that's only a basket more than Gasol all by himself was averaging coming into last night's game.
So you hold those two down like that and you kinda like your chances and the Thunder had a chance to win at the end, two chances actually, but couldn't quite make good on either one, losing to Memphis 91-89.
It was another valiant effort, spurred on by another raucous sellout crowd but the Thunder now fall to 1-5, the Grizzlies move on out to 6-0 extending the best start to a season they've ever had.
The Thunder trailed by nine at halftime but held the Griz to just 17 third quarter points to edge closer at 66-62 going into the fourth. The lead went back to nine points briefly before a Thunder run, capped by a Jeremy Lamb 3-ball tied the game at 81-81.
The Thunder took an 89-87 lead on a 3-ball from Reggie Jackson with just under a minute to play but his counterpart, Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, nailed a three of his own half a minute later to give Memphis the points they needed to win.
With five seconds left Nick Collison tried to inbound the ball but couldn't find an open man before the five second limit ran out, though it appeared the whistle might have come a heartbeat early just as Collison was getting his pass off.
The Thunder had another chance to win after that following a Memphis make and miss at the free throw line. This time Collison got the ball in to Serge Ibaka who just missed an open three.
The 91-89 final and the down to the wire finish looked a lot like most of the games these two teams have played recently, despite the absence of OKC superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Jackson led the Thunder with 22 points, Lamb added 17 and Ibaka 16. Steven Adams and Sebastian Telfair each added 13.
The Thunder's biggest problem was getting to the free throw line and then actually making the shots when they did get to the stripe.
Oklahoma City was a shocking 3-for-11 at the line, for the entire game, not just a quarter or a half.
The Thunder also couldn't get their transition game going, scoring just four points in fast break situations, they came in averaging 11 fast break points and the Grizzlies had been giving up 12 transition points a game.
The schedule now starts to work a little bit in the Thunder's favor. After dealing with a stout group of playoff teams here at the start, 16 of the next 19 games are against teams that did not make the playoffs last season.
Close losses are no fun, they're always hard to swallow because you know just a play here or a play there going your way instead of their way could have changed the outcome.
But it's for just that reason the Thunder have hope of getting their heads back above water during this next stretch of games while they wait on their injured stars to return.
"I knew going into this stretch that we were going to have to compete and play very efficiently on both ends of the floor," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told reporters after the game. "We've put ourselves in position to win every game, except in Brooklyn, every other game we competed and it seems like every game is going down to the last two minutes. These are great experiences for our guys to be in."
Hopefully now during this next stretch of games, they'll get to experience some wins.