Grizzlies fans weren't treated to the best game of the season in the last game of the season tonight, but when Memphis could have rolled over in the second half, they didn't. Behind a nice 3rd quarter where all five starters pitched in, and Rudy Gay especially turned his scoring on, Memphis looked like they could pull their way back into this game.
Rudy ended up leading the Grizzlies with 25, and Zach Randolph also starred, contributing with a 21 point and 11 rebound double-double. O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley scored 17 and 16, respectively, and both dished 5 assists. Kevin Durant led the Thunder in usual fashion by dropping an extremely efficient 31 points.
But even though they got within 6 points, Memphis barely made a single stop down the stretch. Kevin Durant hit a long step-back jumper to assert himself over Rudy Gay. Then after stopping the Grizz, Jeff Green pocketed a three in transition. Memphis called a timeout and the starters saw their final minutes of the year.
Most of the Grizzlies played fairly well, although tonight's game wasn't much of a team effort. OKC executed their sets extremely well to get 25 three pointers. The Grizz mostly capitalized on transition buckets and isolation plays. The Thunder played solid defense, helping at the right moments and generating turnovers and bad shots. The Grizz didn't communicate well, but stayed at home enough to force OKC's role players to shoot. It was essentially the blueprint game for this matchup.
Unfortunately the blueprint game just isn't enough without Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies great equalizer, rebounding, was neutralized by a great team rebounding effort by the Thunder. Everybody on that team contributes in every way, and that causes some serious problems.
As this Grizzlies roster gets fleshed out and begins to merge as a team better, remember only 6 players returned from last year, Memphis will hopefully learn to play more like the Thunder. Until then, though, teamwork was the difference between winning and losing -- playoffs and the last game of the season.