The Thunder beat the Grizzlies 133-123 in triple-overtime to even the series 2-2. Russell Westbrook scored 40. Kevin Durant had 35. It was a very good game.
That’s it. That’s all I got. After that four-hour marathon, prize fight or whatever cliche you want to plug in, I feel like I just went through about 250 stages of emotions.
I thought the game was over about 40 different times. Once as early as about four minutes in. The Grizzlies started the game 8-0 and pushed out to an 18-point first half lead. That seems so, so long ago. But for the first quarter or so, the Thunder just didn’t look ready. The Grizzlies came out swinging and Oklahoma City wasn’t ready to respond.
Funny to think about all that happened later on. I mean seriously, how does one go about accurately describing this game? The Thunder made a great push to get within four going to halftime, played a terrific second half and held a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. They failed to close out the final four minutes and after Kendrick Perkins missed two crucial free throws, Mike Conley dropped an impossible 3. Russell Westbrook had a decent look with 3.5 seconds left to send the game to overtime but came up short.
And that’s when things started to get crazy.
The Thunder took control of the first extra frame but Memphis got another five minutes on the wing and prayer from Greivis Vazquez. At that point, it just felt like it wasn’t meant to be. I mean, how do you come back from that? The Thunder actually trailed for most of the second overtime, but a big step-back Russell Westbrook jumper and a wild scramble under the basket after Zach Randolph missed an easy one led to the Thunder having a shot to win again. Westbrook came up short after having to go full court.
Third overtime. Here’s where the Thunder finally was able to finish the ridiculously persistent Grizzlies. Memphis was playing the third overtime without Conley and O.J. Mayo who had fouled out, which meant Vazquez keyed the offense, which meant the Grizzlies were in trouble. The Thunder won the final frame 14-4 with KD scoring six huge points to close it out.
That’s the gist of the game. But my goodness, there’s so much more.
Back to that start. The Thunder just looked awful the first 16 minutes. It was like the last 20 minutes of Game 3 somehow were transplanted into Game 4. The offense was pathetic, the defense was meh and the team just wasn’t doing anything right. The Thunder turned it over seven times in the first quarter, shot 6-16 and then started the second quarter 0-7. It was looking like a disaster was brewing for the Thunder and that this series was inching closer to a conclusion.
As I watched it, I could only think one thing: OKC needs Russell Westbrook to go hero here. For all the criticism he’s endured, for all the discussion he’s generated and for all the negative stuff that’s been said about him, the Thunder desperately needed Westbrook to bail them out. It started when Daequan Cook hit two big 3s — which seem meaningless now, but at the time were HUGE — and then Westbrook started attacking. And attacking. And attacking. He scored nine points the last five minutes of the second and the Thunder got the message. They fell in step behind Russ and finally woke up.
That’s the thing: The Thunder has to have that Westbrook. He’s crucial. The challenge for him is realizing when and where to turn it on and off. Tonight, he turned it on just in time. Without that second quarter spark, we’re not all staying up until 1 a.m. yelling at our TVs.
Now some of it all started creeping back in late in the fourth when Westbrook took a questionable long jumper, turned it over and then was blocked by Marc Gasol. KD took only one shot the entire fourth, but it seemed excusable to a degree because Westbrook was coming up huge. Like I said though, finding that “off” switch was tough for him because he had carried the Thunder to that point and to hand it off was difficult.
Same story in the overtimes. Westbrook was the offensive focus for the Thunder and Durant played second banana. I’d have to re-watch but on first look, it just seemed like the Grizzlies intended to take away Durant and force Westbrook’s hand. If Westbrook wasn’t up to the challenge, OKC loses this game in the first OT. But he stepped up and didn’t settle for bad shots. He attacked and in some cases, created. (Like how about that kickout to James Harden for 3 that tied the game at 117-117? Big, big play and a big, big shot.)
It’s all almost a blur in my head right now, but the way the Thunder competed and never, ever backed down was downright inspiring. These guys knew this Game 4 meant everything. They were devastated after Game 3 and with the way this one started, they could’ve laid down and just hoped for a better Game 5. But they clawed down to the final buzzer and somehow, someway, found a way to win. They could’ve won at about eight other times, but they basically just outlasted the Grizzlies. Memphis didn’t have enough gas or horses to finish, but with Westbrook and Durant on the floor still ticking, OKC did.
- The Thunder won this game at the free throw line. The offense only really got going for a few minutes at a time, but KD was 16-18 from the line and Westbrook 10-11. As a team, OKC was 42-50.
- I find it mildly unbelievable that OKC played three overtimes and finished with only 16 total assists. Somebody at Elias get on that right now.
- Yes, Westbrook was 15-33 from the floor and KD took just 20 shots. But that number is really deceiving. And necessary. KD took a ton of free throws and OKC had to have Westbrook scoring in this game. He may not have pleased you point guard purists, but Westbrook wasn’t a point guard in this game. He was a scorer.
- What’s crazy is that Serge Ibaka only played 16 minutes. Foul trouble limited him and he wasn’t much of a factor. And Nick Collison was downright fantastic on Randolph again. But Ibaka came in during the third overtime when Perk fouled out and did a great job on the glass and hit a big shot.
- Collison did shock us all losing his cool in the second OT though. He picked up a technical slapping the ball out of Randolph’s hands after he was hit in the face. Uncharicterstic of Nick, but he was certainly tired of Randolph doing it the whole game.
- The Thunder survived, otherwise I probably wouldn’t shut up about the horrible mistake by the officials in the first overtime. Mayo threw the ball off of Harden on the sideline, but his foot was out of bounds when he jumped for the ball. A player that’s out can’t touch it without first re-establishing himself on the court. The refs reviewed it and still messed it up. The Grizzlies got possession and nailed a 3.
- Westbrook and Durant scored 22 of the Thunder’s 37 overtime points. James Harden had eight, Perk two, Ibaka two and Cook two.
- I don’t know if the Thunder inbounded to Westbrook at the end of the first OT to foul out Mayo, but it was very smart. Lionel Hollins stupidly had Mayo in the game and OKC gave it to Westbrook who was fouled by Mayo. Big moment because Mayo certainly would’ve made a difference.
- For once, the Thunder’s small ball lineup worked really well. At one point, OKC was a +17 with Durant at the 4.
- Excellent point from Joe Trautlien at HoopData: “Russ being put in bad situations is equally a problem compared to his own bad decisions.”
- Both Perk and Westbrook were hit with pretty weak technicals in the second quarter. Westbrook was called for just yelling, “That’s a foul!”
- Westbrook’s body language to start the second half was really poor after he missed an easy layup on the first possession. He was clearly moping. Two or three teammates talked to him and lifted him up. Obviously, it worked.
- On the final play of regulation, the play was designed for Durant but Thabo was forced to give it to Westbrook. Durant was caught by the TV cameras saying to Mo Cheeks, “Why didn’t he give me the f—– ball?” The reason was two-fold: He was about to hit a five-second count and two, because you were standing almost at halfcourt, covered.
- I can’t believe it took me this long, but how good was Harden in that fourth quarter? It almost made me sick to watch him set up teammates and orchestrate the offense. What could’ve been in Game 3, what could’ve been.
- I thought Scott Brooks coaches a terrible first half, but a splendid second half and overtimes. You can say what you want about the Thunder not closing, but it took two miracle 3s by the Grizzlies to extend this game. The Thunder did well. The execution wasn’t good to finish regulation, but the Grizzlies want to win too. They weren’t just going to quit because they were down 10.
- Memphis nearly won this game on the offensive glass. They finished with 24 offensive rebounds and in the overtimes, scored almost entirely off of second chances. Gasol had 21 boards and 10 offensive. Randolph had eight offensive.
- Westbrook quietly played a terrific defensive game on Mike Conley who was just 2-12 from the floor with only five assists.
- Minutes: KD 56, Russ 51, Harden 49. Those guys really need to soak up this day off.
Is this a shift in momentum? I’m not totally sure. It has to be almost as equally devastating for the Grizzlies as Game 3 was for the Thunder. Memphis had a big lead and blew it. Then they were poised to steal one off of a couple miracle shots. But OKC finished it off.
And the Thunder had to. They had to win once in Memphis and if it didn’t happen tonight, this series would be all but over. Now the Thunder has the upper-hand needing to win two of three with homecourt advantage again. About 500 things happened those 63 minutes, but the end result means the Thunder got the job done. The trip to Memphis is a success. It’s a bit bittersweet because it seems like two wins should’ve happened, but the Grizzlies feel the same way. Point is, it’s a series again and Game 5 is just as big as the rest of them. Probably bigger actually. Prepare for six overtimes.
Next up: Game 5 at home Wednesday.