Grizzlies' lackluster performance forces Game 7 in OKC
MAY 02, 2014 2:06a ET
MEMPHIS -- Prince Harry didn't get the full Memphis flavor. Not after the Grizzlies looked like they didn't care to close out the Thunder in a 104-84 loss on Thursday, leaving Beale Street a shell of the party it would have been if the Grizzlies had finished this thing off.
With Harry and Prince William staying on the entire top floor of The Peabody the night before a friend's wedding, the highlight two blocks away at FedExForum was James Johnson asking Caron Butler to fight. Not a good sign for the Grizzlies -- or for Butler against the second-degree black belt who is 7-0 in MMA fights and 20-0 in kickboxing matches.
After four straight overtime games, nobody in Memphis wanted an extra five minutes of this one.
The Grizzlies went out of their way to be bad, bad enough that a sellout crowd who began the night waving their Growl Towels in excitement ended the night dragging them out the door with 5 minutes left.
Memphis was out-rebounded, out-shot, out-hustled, out-worked and ran their fans right out the Grindhouse.
"We were lackadaisical," said Memphis guard Tony Allen. "They hit us first. They were the aggressors and they played harder than us. It's kind of embarrassing when you come out here with the fans chanting your name, screaming for you, pulling for you."
Kevin Durant scored 36 points on 11-of-23 shooting, by far his best performance of the series. He added 10 rebounds and made 14 of his 15 free throws. He refused to give any credit to the headline in The Oklahoman that labeled him, "Mr. Unreliable," saying a 3-2 deficit was all the motivation he needed.
Russell Westbrook didn't look like an out-of-control lunatic and scored 25 points, had nine rebounds and five assists.
"They played with a lot of force, a lot of desperation and urgency" said Memphis coach Dave Joerger. " ... Durant went first and he ate first tonight."
Memphis never made it to the table.
The Thunder out-rebounded the Grizzlies by 11, shot 49.3 percent and held Memphis to 37.3 and hit 23-of-25 from the line. Memphis hit only 19-of-28 from the line, seemingly distracted there in the first half by a leaping Thunder fan 10-feet behind the goal. Steven Adams had five blocked shots. Steven Adams against the big, bad Grizzlies interior.
Oklahoma City set the tone, Joerger said, in the first 6-8 minutes. It was really set when Durant scored the first four points, 14 in the first quarter.
Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks praised his guys continued defensive effort that finally paid off with an offensive showing, too.
"When you're offense is not clicking and you're not making shots, you still have to defend," said Brooks. "A lot of teams don't do that."
Memphis didn't and played with no motivation to win a game that would have ended what has shaped up to be one of the most exciting playoff series in NBA history.
Why? That's a good question.
"I can't explain it," said Memphis point guard Mike Conley. "I felt like everybody was focused. I thought everybody had their mind on the game and what we needed to do to win."
The Grizzlies kept saying how desperate Oklahoma City played. They had to keep the season alive. Memphis doesn't have a valid excuse.
Now it is faced with winning Game 7 at Oklahoma City, where it has won two straight. The percentages eventually catch up with you and Memphis is on the wrong side of that percentage, though the home team is 2-4 in the series.
Keeping that streak going will be much tougher without Mike Conley. The Memphis point guard left Thursday's game in the third quarter after chasing a loose ball with Butler. He limped off clutching his right hamstring and didn't return. He said postgame the initial diagnosis is a strain, but that will be reevaluated Friday.
"I plan on playing," said Conley.
And if he can't? Nick Calathes? Still suspended for violation of the league's drug policy. Beno Udrih has had some moments, but the Grizzlies need Conley for this moment and they need more than the non-aggressive five points on 2-of-10 shooting he provided Thursday in 28 minutes.
But isn't this where Memphis thrives? The Grizzlies have played elimination games for more than a month just to slip into the postseason. Some didn't expect them to get to the playoffs. No one will expect a win in Game 7.
Who didn't expect a Game 7 after the twists and turns of this series, the four-point plays, the Tony Allen defense, the lost leads and comebacks, the overtimes, the near fights on Thursday that also saw tempers flare between Adams and Zach Randolph.
If Memphis is going to win at Oklahoma City, it will have to be on its game, that lethargic, dip it into the post and let Randolph and Marc Gasol do their jobs.
Adams played like a Grizzly on Thursday. The Grizzlies were just, lethargic. One more night like that and it's hibernating time -- and maybe time for newly-single Harry and future king William to plan another trip to Memphis.
The Grizzlies didn't put on a show worthy of a packed house, much less British royalty.