For the Memphis Grizzlies, as long as they've got their grit and grind, they're going to leave it all on the floor tonight.
I'm on record as to saying every game, you face three opponents: the other team, the officials, and yourself. Tonight, the Grizzlies overcame each one of them.
It was a sloppy game all around, neither team shot over 36%, and had some really terrible foul calls. At one point in the game, Jerryd Bayless got called for an arm in the back, on a post up. ON A POST UP![i] Lionel Hollins could be heard jawing with the officials throughout the game, complaining about how one sided the game was being called. The box score doesn't show that the game was called that unevenly, but you could definitely see where the Thunder's superstar status gave them the benefit of the doubt all throughout the night, including Russell Westbrook not being ejected from the game after picking up a quick technical and then shoving Marc Gasol, after blatantly running into him and then complaining about the foul call.
Memphis dictated the pace, style, and outcome of the first half, holding Oklahoma City to a season low 38 points at the break, and leading by six. The Thunder needed almost four full minutes before they scored their first points. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 17 points in the first half, and Kevin Martin added 10 of his own to help the Thunder stay afloat. Memphis was forcing long jumpers, getting rebounds, and keeping the Thunder from putting up big numbers, but they couldn't capitalize on the other end.
In the third quarter, it looked like Memphis had allowed Oklahoma City to stick around long enough for Kevin Durant, who finished the game with 32 points, to get going and superstar them. He scored 19 straight points, and single handedly led the Thunder to their first lead of the night at 57-56, but Memphis would add two more points on a pair of Marc Gasol free throws to maintain a one point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Memphis was called for a foul 10 seconds into the quarter. Kevin Durant made another jumper to give OKC a one point lead again, but Mike Conley, who had a season high 24 points, put his head down and drove to the basket for three straight layups then assisting on a Jerryd Bayless 3 and a Tony Allen layup to keep the Grizzlies ahead.
Poor shooting, Nick Collison, and a continued barrage of free throws say the Thunder grab the lead and extend it to 6 points with under a minute to go. It looked like it was over; it wasn't the first time. Mike Conley would add two more free throws and another driving layup to pull Memphis to within two. Then, after Russell Westbrook split a pair of free throws, Jerryd Bayless got fouled on a lob attempt[ii] and made both of his, making it a one point game. Westbrook and Bayless would trade two more sets of free throws, and the Grizzlies were down by three points with under 14 seconds to play.
Out of time outs, and having to make a three to tie it, Lionel brought in all shooters: Jerryd, Mike, Quincy, and Austin Daye.[iii] The ball would wind up in the hands of the Grizzlies own version of Mr. Big Shot, as Jerryd Bayless, with ice water in his veins, drained a 3 to tie the game. Jerryd may commit costly turnovers, shoot the ball at inopportune times, and fail to shoot it before the shot clock goes down, but he has made as many clutch shots as anyone on this team this year.
The Grizzlies forced overtime, and rode Marc Gasol to victory, as the big fella had 5 points, including the game winning tip in with .8 seconds on the clock.
- The Grizzlies are undefeated now dating back to last season when Mike Conley goes for 20 or more.
- Zach Randolph had 15 points and 18 rebounds, and will need a hefty amount of time in the ice tub tonight, as he was physically assaulted the entire game, resulting in only four free throw attempts. He was (clearly) fouled on three straight drives underneath the basket, yet the officials REFUSED to blow their whistles, until he got in their face and yelled, "Call a damn foul!" at which point they did: a technical foul, on him.
- Jerryd Bayless finished the game with 20 points, going 4-6 from beyond the arc, and a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line.
- Nick Collison is a Zach Randolph killer. We saw this up close during the much ballyhooed playoff series two years ago, and each time we face them, the smug looking bizzaro Jim Halpert loves to remind us.
- The Grizzlies held the Thunder, the NBA's highest scoring team to 20 points below their average, and 35.8% shooting.
The win gave Memphis the tiebreaker over Oklahoma City, who now is only three games ahead of them in the standings, two in the loss column. These are the kinds of wins the Grizzlies love to manufacture. They didn't shoot the ball well, there will not be a ton of highlights, nothing of value for ESPN, but this team doesn't care one bit. They got in the mud and played through it all and secured a much-needed victory over a very high quality opponent. They would not allow a superstar to stop them. They would not allow one-sided officiating or poor shooting to stop them. They kept clawing until the final buzzer sounded, and that's what Memphis is all about. We don't quit, we don't give up, and we most certainly do not bluff.
[i] In all fairness, he did have an arm in his back, but only because it's perfectly, 100% legal.
[ii] Say what you want to about Lionel Hollins and the fact that the Grizzlies only run three plays on offense, but that was really good coaching and a great play call right there.
[iii] In case you are wondering, not only was I rooting my heart out for Austin Daye, I sent Ryan a text about what I'd do to him and for him had he made that shot.