At this point, you have to believe Hollywood considers the Grizzlies vs. Thunder matchup to be a viable franchise.
For four straight games, these two teams have squared off and largely followed the exact same script. Again, our beloved Beale St. Bears mounted a sizable lead against Oklahoma City, and again they squandered it with an inability to score against the Thunder defense, and again, there was another God-forsaken 4-point play, and for the third time in four games, they survived in overtime.
Mike Miller and his 21 points off the bench led the Grizzlies. The old man played a heck of a game, and God bless him, because outside of his 5-8 from beyond the arc, Memphis was a paltry 2-11. Zach Randolph added a much needed (and mostly efficient) 20/10 game with Mike Conley chipping in with 17.
The game started off in pretty much the exact opposite way I expected. Thinking the Thunder were going to come out bee-bopping and scatting all over the place after having nodded up the series by stealing Game 4 in Memphis, the Grizzlies were the ones who jumped out to an early lead. On the back of Zach Randolph, who scored 6 early points, Memphis jumped out to a 10-2 advantage right out of the gate. After a Thunder run saw them Get within two points, the Grizzlies got some rare offensive contributions from Tayshaun Prince who scored all seven of his points in the period and the Grizzlies led by 5 heading into the second quarter.
Oklahoma City would bounce back and score 11 points in the first four minutes of the second quarter behind the power 3-point shooting from their
old men veterans. Up just three, the Grizzlies got some firepower from their own old man veteran, and went on a swift 7-0 run to extend the lead to double digits. Memphis held the Thunder scoreless over the final two minutes of the quarter, and entered halftime with a 12-point cushion, 55-43.
The Grizzlies would come out swinging in the second half, forcing two Thunder timeouts in the first five and a half minutes of the third quarter. After another quick 6-0 run, Memphis saw their led sit at 20 points, 72-52 with 3:43 to play in the third. And then, it happened, again.
Caron Butler 3-point shot, lead down to 17. Beno Udrih misses a 3. Kevin Durant 3-point shot, lead down to 14. Courtney Lee misses a 3. Serge Ibaka and-1, lead down to 11, and the Grizzlies need a time out just one minute and thirty-five seconds after leading by 20.
Out of the time out, Zach Randolph is called for a 3-second violation, followed by the Thunder grabbing two offensive rebounds on the same possession, and Caron Butler hitting another 3, lead down to 8. Kevin Durant would split a pair of free throws to cut it to seven, before the two teams traded a couple buckets, and ultimately, Memphis led by 6 entering the "final" quarter.
The fourth quarter opened up like a Dungeons and Dragons night at a speed-dating service: no scoring. A total of two points were scored in the first 3:50 of the quarter, and Memphis needed well over four full minutes to account for it's first bucket. With 6:46 to play, Memphis saw themselves 79-78 after a Kevin Durant 3. They would quickly recover, thanks to some Mike Conley heroics, and lead again 87-82. At this point, the director yelled cut, went over to talk to the writers and said, "Guys, I'm gonna be honest with you. I really think the audience would like to see another 4-point play here." And they obliged him.
Caron Butler, still be guarded by Zach Randolph for some reason, was fouled on a 3-pointer and sunk the free throw, accounting for the third 4-point play in five games this series. Even with this, the Grizzlies led by 2, 90-88, with only 20 seconds to play. Unfortunately, while dribbling around trying to milk some clock before running a play, Mike Conley committed an uncharacteristic costly turnover, as Russell Westbrook picked his pocket clean and took off the other way for an uncontested breakaway dunk to tie the game at 90 with only four seconds left. The Grizzlies were able to get the ball into Marc at the free throw line, who appeared to have a clean look at a jumper, but he instead kicked down low to ZBo, who failed to get a shot off before the clock expired.
You know the drill, guys. Free basketball.
Mike Miller jumpstarted the Grizzly offense with two quick 3-pointers in overtime, and they led by four. After a layup and jump-shot from Perkins and Ibaka, the game was tied again at 98, with 1:15 left to play. Mike Conley made a driving layup to give the Grizzlies the led, and on the ensuing Thunder possession, Serge Ibaka whiffed on a 3-pointer, but Tony Allen was called for a foul as he and Durant both went for the rebound, sending the leagues leading scorer to the line with a chance to tie the game. He hit the first. With the ball in his hands getting ready to hoist the second one, Joey Crawford ran to him, stopped him, grabbed the ball, ran to the scorers table, pointed to the crowd and yelled, "I AM JOSEPH EVELYN CRAWFORD, AND YOU WILL ALL TAKE NOTE WHEN YOU ARE IN MY PRESENCE!" (I'm paraphrasing, of course) When Durant got the ball back, he would miss the second free throw, marking the third time on the night he had done just that.
The Grizzlies couldn't convert on offense, and the Thunder had just over two seconds to get off a shot to win the game. Durant hoisted up a 3 with Gasol in his face that clanked off the back iron. Serge Ibaka got the rebound but the buzzer sounded on the lights went off before he could put it back, and the Grizzlies won 100-99. Survive.
Game Notes from the Legend-wait for it-Diary.
- So great to see all you guys and dolls and hang out with you while watching the game. I didn't get to meet as many of you as I would have liked, but I suppose we'll save that for next time. (Hopefully in a less stressful environment)
- Joe Mullinax and I were both in full agreement that the Thunder would come out really strong to start the game, so of course we'd be dead wrong on one of the few times we agree.
- During the fourth quarter and overtime, I went through four beer koozies. Not drinking. I tore them to tiny shreds as my hands looked for ways to relieve the anxiety the game was causing me.
- Kids, you've gotta make your free throws.
- The Grizzlies gave up 19 offensive rebounds, including 5 to Russell Westbrook. That can't happen again.
- On the heels of a season-saving performance by Reggie Jackson to tie the series at 2-2, he scored just 6 points. The Thunder bench scored 26 on the night, while the Memphis reserves scored 36.
- The Grizzlies are 3-0 when the Thunder has a successful 4-point play.
- 56 points on 55 shots for Westbrook and Durant.
Memphis now heads home up 3-2 with a chance to close out at home and end the Thunder's season for the second straight year. Buckle up, folks. Game 6 is sure to bring the most intense matchup of the series as Oklahoma City fights to stay alive. There is almost certain to be heroics from Durant, 4-point plays for the basketball gods, and you have to believe we're going to overtime again. For now though, the Grizzlies can breath a little easier knowing that all they have to do to advance is win one game on their floor, and because of that, the beat is most definitely alright.