Down two key players - Rudy Gay with a back injury and O.J. Mayo due to suspension - the Memphis Grizzlies went into Oklahoma City, one of the toughest places to play in the league, and defeated a full strength Thunder team that had one three straight games coming into the contest. Despite missing their best wing scorer, Memphis got the best all-around game of Tony Allen's career and used a steady dose of Zach Randolph inside to take down the Thunder, who are very vulnerable in the paint.
This was the second overtime game over the past week for the Grizzlies and even though their top two perimeter options were out, Memphis made due and collected what was likely their best overall win of the season - even better than the victory over the Heat from earlier in the year because of their personel situation for this game. The Grizzlies played a great defensive game against the Thunder, one of their best of the year, as a line-up of Mike Conley, Sam Young, Tony Allen, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph did the dirty work to hold the Thunder to 98 points per 100 possessions while forcing them to turn it over a season high 24 times.
Though it may seem like I am beating a dead horse, there were once again issues with the Grizzlies offense late and while it's a bit easier to swallow because of the absence of gay, there Mike Conley was, in the middle of the paint in the closing seconds of the game without a clue what to do. The Grizzlies could have won the game there and they were a Russell Westbrook jumper away from being sent home with a devastating two point loss.
But, to their credit, they pulled through. Kevin Durant had his 31 points and is well on his way to another scoring title, but these are the games that people tend to gloss over when they look at Durant. 12-of-25 shooting for Durant as he scored just 26 points from the field on 25 shots. When Tony Allen checked Durant, whether he wa fighting hard through screens or getting in his face when spotting up, KD couldn't do much. He finished the game shooting four-of-13 when Allen was guarding him with one turnover at the end of overtime in which Allen was guarding Durant so tightly that he tripped over his own feet - it summed up the evening quite well.
On the other end, Allen delivered the best performance of his career. Allen had 27 points on nine-of-12 shooting while going nine-of-12 from the free throw line and mixing in a couple of mid-range jumpers to put the icing on the cake.
Other game notes:
- Zach Randolph torched Oklahoma City for a game 31 points. After having one of the worst games of his career against the Lakers, Randolph bounced right back and put in 11 of his 19 shots against the Thunder while grabbing 14 rebounds. In the overtime period, Randolph had the game clinching basket with Memphis only up one. He banked home a tough shot that had to make everyone think, "That's classic Z-Bo."
- 13 points on 12 shots for Mike Conley, who struggled on both ends of the floor. His counterpart, Russell Westbrook, had 21 points, 11 assists and five boards but also had eight turnovers. He's still learning, but Westbrook is a heck of a player.
- The Grizzlies did a great job of locking down Jeff Green, who missed 10 of his 12 shots. When he is off, the Thunder have a hard time winning because Durant and Westbrook still aren't enough to carry a team every single night without at least 10 points from someone else. OKC's next highest scorer last night was James Harden with 13 but he was woefully inefficient. Memphis' entire starting line-up was in double figures for scoring.
After this four games in five night stretch, the Grizzlies will have a couple of days off before taking on the struggling Milwaukee Bucks.