After Game 4, I think most of us said something like, “Man, I don’t think I can take another one of those.” So in Game 5, the Thunder took care of us. They ended it in three quarters, not overtimes.
The Thunder straight up ran over the Grizzlies in the most pivotal game of the series. The first quarter was close, but after that, it was on. This team flipped something on and basically dump-trucked Memphis for three quarters.
The defense was spectacular, the Thunder shot the lights out, the energy never wavered and in the end, Oklahoma City took the biggest game in the series 99-72 to take a 3-2 series lead. I’m not sure I could really pinpoint a moment the game turned, but the Thunder certainly appeared to be the team with the energy. It was probably the home crowd that lifted them up, but the Grizzlies just had an unfocused look about them. They missed a ton of layups, went 14-23 from the line and between Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, Memphis only got 24 points and 12 rebounds. Credit the Thunder defense for sure, but the Grizzlies didn’t appear ready for the punch the Thunder threw. And when it connected, they just wilted.
The Thunder turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter, but pulled it together in the second, giving it away just twice. That’s sort of when the Thunder stretched out. The Grizzlies turned it over a few time, missed some shots that were rebounding long and the Thunder were able to get out in transition a bit. A few easy buckets, a couple more stops and once it got to 10, OKC wasn’t turning back. There wasn’t about to be any collapse in this one. When the Thunder had an open 3 to really twist the knife they knocked it down. When Memphis needed a basket badly, OKC stopped them.
It was pretty much exactly what you’d hope to see in this type of situation. Maybe it’s a sign of growing up, maybe it’s another step in the development. But the Thunder had a look to them. They survived Game 4 and got the win they needed to stay in this thing. It was almost like they just knew if they could get back to OKC 2-2, they could take care of business.
But of course nothing is settled yet. The Thunder have an opportunity to close now in Memphis, but Game 6 absolutely will not come easy like this. The Grizzlies won’t miss layups. They’ll rebound better. The effort will be better. They are going to come ready. That’s not a team that lays down.
The Thunder took care of their business. They played together, played like a team and fed off the energy of not just the crowd, but each other. Some will probably feel like crowning them and start thinking of the Mavericks. I’m no where near in that world because despite the 83 percent stat, the Grizzlies will play better. And honestly, the Thunder might have to too.
- Numbers: Memphis shot just 35.9 percent from the field, OKC outrebounded them 50-33, the Thunder hit nine 3s and OKC’s bench outscored the Grizzlies’ starters 53-45.
- Scott Brooks when asked about the turnaround the team made offensively with execution: “Uh, coaching.” With a smile of course.
- This game really felt like the complete opposite of Game 1. The energy was there but not just that, the ball bounced the Thunder’s way a number of times. Turnovers became layups, rebounds for Memphis became extra possessions. One of those nights for the Thunder, but to all their credit, they capitalized in every way.
- Lionel Hollins admitted his team was tired .”It probably was. It’s always better for the home team in these situation. Not only were we physically down, but also as well mentally.”
- The crowd started chanting “We want Nate!” with about six minutes left. Scott Brooks went to grab him and send him in but had a hard time getting his attention. Why? Because Nate was too busy still celebrating Daequan Cook’s latest 3. I love that little dude.
- And when Nate dropped a 3, I actually thought people might rush the court. This town has a major Nate Robinson crush.
- KD scored just 19 points, but of course didn’t play the fourth quarter. Russell Westbrook was very solid, scoring 11 with six assists in three quarters. Nobody had numbers that really jump at you, but that’s the sort of blowout it was. Everyone did their thing, everyone played well.
- One guy that of course didn’t have big numbers but was spectacular was Nick Collison. He had nine points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes. He complete took Zach Randolph out of the game and made just a number of Nick Collison plays. Tipping rebounds, taking charges, grabbing loose balls, diving — the guy really is as important a player as the Thunder have on the roster.
- James Harden was a +29. In a 27-point win, Thabo was a -2. Have fun with that one.
- Daequan Cook was lighting it up in this one. When he dropped a 3 in the second quarter on my favorite play (the “skip” play), I knew he had it going. He finished with 18 on 6-7 shooting, 4-5 from 3.
- KD on what the tough two games in Memphis did for the team: “Going through that kind of molds our character and brings us closer together … It’s all about us sticking together all the time.”
- Daequan Cook dunked. That sort of night.
- Mike Conley and Tony Allen went a combined 8-29. Only one Griz player was in double-figures (Gasol 15).
- KD once again put on the free t-shirt. I can’t get enough of that.
- KD on what’s in his backpack: “I got my iPad. I got my bible. I got my headphones. My phone charger.”
- Picture of Perk as an altar boy. That’s one scary altar boy.
- The Thunder really worked Perk in the post a lot tonight. Why? I have no idea.He did score once, but it came after bulldozing over Marc Gasol. Perk also missed a wide open layup that he should’ve dunked and then missed another later on. I think it’s pretty clear he’s not 100 percent at all. There was word of around 65 percent and I’d say that’s probably accurate.
- KD on what changed for the team defensively after the tough start in the season: “Putting Serge in the starting lineup kind of helped us.” Feel validated, people?
- The Thunder went the first four minutes of the game without a point. It honestly felt like the fans weren’t ever going to get to sit down. Finally Thabo followed up a miss with a dunk and from that point on, the team loosened up a bit and played.
- Scott Brooks made a simple, but good point defending Westbrook: before the game As KD’s point guard, Durant won two scoring titles and is leading the playoffs in scoring. Say what you will about him as a point guard, but that’s kind of hard to argue with.
Two good things to take from this win: 1) We don’t have to re-hash and re-re-hash Russell Westbrook again and 2) the Thunder’s one game away from closing the Grizzlies. That fourth win will be a tough one but OKC made a decent statement tonight. The Thunder were ready. The Grizzlies were not. It’s a matter of Memphis finding a way to bounce back and redeem itself after this one. But for the Thunder to have that killer instinct in such a big, important game says something. It says something about the players, the coaches and the organization that maybe, just maybe, they’re ready to do some big things this season.
You can’t feel too good about this one for too long because Game 6 and a rabid, hungry, towel-waving FedEx Forum crowd awaits. But after such a tight, nip-and-tuck series for four games, the Thunder made a loud, clear statement in Game 5. They were ready.