Thunder Come Up Short Again
By Randy Renner
For much of the game the Thunder weren't even really in it, Memphis jumped out to a big early lead, up by 20 in the first half, and the home team looked lost.
Then, as we've seen happen before in this series, the team that was down rose up, rallied to tie and then take the lead, only to lose yet again in overtime. And for the third time in this series it was the Thunder that came up just a little bit short.
One point, just one away from winning in regulation.
Tuesday night the final was 100-99 Grizzlies and it had more twists and turns than a soap opera and even a bit of a bizarre incident in the closing seconds of overtime.
First of all it was the first time in NBA history two teams had played four straight overtime games. The Thunder played terrible defense in the first quarter but managed to lock things down fairly well after that, especially in the second half.
The Thunder offense was rolling in the first quarter, shots were falling, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook got off to fine shooting starts and then all of a sudden they couldn't hit any shots again. The pair combined to miss 12 straight shots late in the first half.
Westbrook finished with his ninth career triple-double (30 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists) but he took 31 shots to get those 30 points. Durant had 26 points on 24 shots and he got the line just six times and made just three of those free throws.
And it was at the free throw line where that bizarre incident occurred.
It came with 27 seconds left in overtime and Durant at the free throw line shooting two. After he hit the first free throw lead official Joey Crawford ran up to Durant and grabbed the ball from him. Crawford then ran over to the scorer’s table to make sure five fouls were being shown for each team on the scoreboard. The sudden move seemed to rattle Durant a little and he missed the second free throw which would have tied the game.
"It was an awkward situation I'll say that, but it's neither here nor there," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said.
When Durant was asked about it after the game he said he was, "just trying to stay focused. I don't know what happened (with Crawford) but I have to make that free throw."
Grizzlies sharp-shooter Mike Miller, who chose Memphis over Oklahoma City in free agency, hit five 3-pointers, two of them in overtime to lead his team to the win. Miller led the Grizzlies with 21 points off the bench that's one more point than he had scored in the previous four games combined.
Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley scored the winning basket on a driving layup after missing a 20 foot jumper. Marc Gasol grabbed the rebound and got the ball back to Conley for his winning shot. Kevin Durant then missed a long 3-pointer and Serge Ibaka’s putback came about a half second after the final buzzer, quickly silencing a roaring crowd at The Peake.
Memphis is now up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series heading back home where the Grizzlies can close things out on Thursday.
The Thunder though didn't seem ready to give up.
"We've won there before," Durant said. In fact they won in Memphis just on Saturday night so the memory is fresh. "We know what we have to do, we just have to do it."
"We knew it was going to be tough but now we have to put this behind us and put all our energy and focus into the next game." Brooks said. "We have to pick ourselves up and get ready and we have 48 hours to do that."