Thunder let one slip in Memphis, 90-89 (OT)

BOX SCORE

Forget the Marc Gasol tip-in. The Thunder lost this game in the final 62 seconds of regulation.

Up 78-72 with OKC in possession, Kevin Durant stuck his hip out 40 feet from the basket and was nailed for an offensive foul. Ball back to Memphis, in which KD fouled (at least according to the officials, he did), Mike Conley who buried two free throws — 78-74. OKC’s next possession, KD went for the dagger and rimmed out a deep 3 — 78-74, 26 seconds left. The Thunder were clearly worried about a 3 and forgot to play any kind of defense, allowing Conley to prance his way to an uncontested layup — 78-76, 15 seconds left.

Grizzlies foul, Russell Westbrook splits free throws — 79-76, 12 seconds left. Grizzlies go for a quick 2, throwing a backdoor lob to Jerryd Bayless. Thabo Sefolosha fouls Bayless, two free throws for Memphis — 79-78, 11 seconds left. Westbrook hits two — 81-78, 11 seconds left. Another foul — for some reason — by Thabo, two free throws for Bayless — 81-80, 10 seconds left. Westbrook sinks two more — 83-80, nine seconds left.

So, nine seconds to go, Grizzlies need a 3 to force overtime. Memphis runs a decent play, forcing a switch and Reggie Jackson overplays on Bayless who sinks a game-tying 3 with three seconds left. Another opportunity for the Thunder to foul up three, but instead they played it out and got burned. Now, to be fair, there wasn’t a real great opportunity to wrap anyone up unless you did it with like seven seconds left, which is a bit too much time on the clock. But it didn’t look like the Thunder had any interest in it anyway.

Overtime. And against all odds, despite three horrific offensive possessions and only one point the first four minutes of OT, the Thunder were up one with 13 seconds left after Westbrook hit an incredible finger-roll to put OKC up 89-88. Just in need of a single stop to get out of Memphis with a truly fantastic win. As they repeatedly tried to do all night, the Grizzlies fed Zach Randolph on the block who was stood up by Nick Collison. Kendrick Perkins decided to help on Z-Bo’s shot, leaving KD to rotate down and block out Gasol. Durant got pushed a little too far under the bucket and bang, game over.

Except it wasn’t. With 0.8 on the clock, Perk inexplicably inbounded the ball with the Thunder still in possession of a 20-second timeout. Westbrook launched a 70-foot shot that was wide right. Now it was game over. I don’t know whose fault this was to not call that last timeout and while no, chances weren’t great you’d score anyway there, it’s still a chance. And I’ve seen Kevin Durant do something similar before anyway.

So that’s bad.

As I look at that final score — 90-89 — all I can think about is what a shame it is it ended that way for OKC. Because regardless of any brainfarts or the breakdown on the boards on that final play, this really was a great performance by the Thunder spoiled by the fact they lost. The fourth quarter effort and execution was tremendous.

When Kevin Martin drilled a 3 with 1:25 left to put OKC up six, I was typing out a lede that said, “That, right there, was a faith-restoring kind of win.” Because that’s what this game felt like. KD stepped up big time in the third scoring 15 of OKC’s 19 in the quarter. Westbrook, Martin and Durant all made plays in the fourth and the Thunder were all set for some kind of wonderful bounce-back win. The defense was stellar and the offense was doing enough to get by. It felt like I was watching the Thunder gut out a playoff game in Memphis in 2011. Not pretty, just nasty and effective.

Except the Thunder just sort of gave it all away. Mistakes, bad decisions and silly plays ended up making the Thunder pay dearly in the form of a heart-wrenching loss that just compounds the recent problem of losing to premier teams. Instead of the Thunder going on the road with a serious statement against a top Western contender, they were left dragging themselves out with a two-game skid.

Moral victories are nothing but losses for this Thunder team so feeling even remotely OK about a loss feels dirty, but maybe that’s where things are right now. Good things happened in this game, just the result was bad. I’m so confused about this team right now.

NOTES:

  • Allow me to stand and clap for Nick Collison. I’ll wait for the rest of the auditorium to join me. (Waiting.) That was some kind of individual defensive effort. That was like good enough to make someone say, “Hey, maybe he deserves some All-Defense votes.” Sometimes we get carried away saying someone “held” someone to a poor shooting night, but Collison legitimately held Z-Bo to 15 points on just 6-23 shooting. That was seriously something else to watch. One of the best games I’ve seen any Thunder player play all year. And to think the box score says he only had four points and five rebounds in 29 minutes. Numbers lie.
  • KD had a weird game. He started 4-14, then hit his next six shots to get to 10-20, then missed seven straight to drop to 10-27, then hit a runner with a minute left in OT to finish at 11-28. With another off night, he’s slipping dangerously close to the 50-40-90 line. He’s at 50.2 percent from the field, 40.006 from 3. And yes, I deeply care about this.
  • One adjustment OKC made to get KD going in the third was to isolate Durant in post-ups and on the left wing. The Grizzlies were hesitant to double straightaway, so Durant just essentially got to spots he liked and scored from there.
  • Positive: Kevin Martin was excellent. He finished with 17 on 6-13 shooting in 33 minutes, but he carried the Thunder’s offense at times in the second quarter (he had 10 points at halftime) and stayed involved in the second half. He actually appeared to be part of the team again for the first time in a while.
  • Memphis had 19 offensive rebounds. Now, those stats kind of get inflated because Randolph is so good tipping his own misses, but still, 19 offensive boards are just too many.
  • Westbrook and Durant ended up combining to shoot 18-53 from the floor. Yikes.
  • If I’m Scott Brooks, I cut a tape of the way Nick Collison played tonight with his effort, energy, discipline and technique and I make Serge Ibaka carry it around for the rest of the season like it’s a football and he’s a running back with a fumbling problem.
  • Someone should really have asked Russell Westbrook if the Thunder lost this one or if the Grizzlies won it.
  • Many a Memphis fan were all fired up and yelling that Collison was just fouling Randolph. Here’s the thing about that: There’s contact, absolutely. But Z-Bo is always initiating all of that contact, lowering his head and using his shoulders to clear space. So if you’re going to take away Collison’s ability to bump back with his chest, then you might as well just give Memphis two points every possession. It’s an extremely physical matchup. But Collison is keeping his fingers pointed to the rafters and moving his feet. Just because there’s contact and pushing doesn’t mean there’s a foul.
  • This is the part where I ask myself, do I feel like spending another paragraph lamenting Derek Fisher’s playing time, or do I just say something like “sigh” and move on?
  • Oh, I can’t let this go at least: Fisher was an 11 trillion tonight. Eleven minutes, 0-4 shooting and nothing else in the box score.
  • And this: Fisher played roughly four minutes early in the fourth quarter, all at shooting guard. You know who sat on the bench? OKC’s defensive ace, Thabo Sefolosha. If Derek Fisher didn’t exist on this planet, Thabo would’ve been in the game at that moment. Tell me how to rationalize this. TELL ME.
  • All that said, Derek Fisher had nothing to do with the Thunder losing this game tonight.
  • The Thunder had 66 points at halftime last night against Denver. They had 58 after three quarters tonight against Memphis.
  • The Thunder set a season-low with just nine assists. Previous low was 10.
  • Perk had a season-high 16 rebounds.
  • On consecutive possessions in the first half, Westbrook and Ibaka both had fairly insane putbacks.
  • I really liked OKC’s smallball lineup late in the fourth with Westbrook, Jackson, Martin, Durant and Collison. Actually, I didn’t like it. I loved it. Brooks then subbed Perk in to matchup with Memphis who came back with Gasol, taking out Jackson. I didn’t really like the swap for OKC, but Perk set a terrific screen and then set up Martin nicely for that big 3. So it worked out.
  • However, I think Brooks should’ve came back with the small lineup in overtime. After sitting Thabo for most of the fourth, he played him the entire overtime session with Collison and Perk as bigs. OKC’s offense stalled out entirely as Westbrook and Durant ran out of ideas.
  • Westbrook picked up an early technical foul, then briefly lost it when he launched himself into a Marc Gasol screen and then scuffled with him. There’s just something about Westbrook and the Grizzlies that makes him lose his mind.
  • The Grizzlies were called for four offensive three second calls. Don’t know if I’ve ever seen that many before in a game.
  • A lot of people rag on Miami’s PA guy, but the worst in the league is the Grizzlies’ guy. It’s a basketball game, not a monster truck rally.
  • The Grizzlies truly are ridiculously tough. That’s one mean bunch.
  • Brian Davis Line of the Night: “HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAAHA.”

Next up: At Orlando on Friday.

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