MEMPHIS — The Grizzlies battled back from an early 17-point deficit and survived what may have been the Thunder’s best shot Monday night with a 103-97 overtime victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference semis. Memphis now leads the series 3-1 and improved to 4-0 at home this postseason. Game 5 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City. Here are three observations from a game the Thunder controlled early on, but the Grizzlies took back:
1. The Grizzlies’ grit translates to control of the series
In another tight game that came down to the final minutes of regulation and overtime, Memphis simple made more key plays.
In OT, Zach Randolph fought only himself for a rebound of a Marc Gasol miss and put it in for a 98-94 lead, Memphis’ biggest of the game up to that point. With two men on Kevin Durant, Derek Fisher got it within one with a 3-pointer. But another offensive foul on Reggie Jackson — running into Gasol — blew a chance for OKC to take a late lead. With Memphis up a point, Durant slipped and missed a good look. Gasol answered on the other end with a jumper as the shot clock expired and Tony Allen stole an inbounds pass from Fisher with 20.8 seconds left. Gasol iced it, hitting 1 of 2 at the line.
There was also a key play in the final minute of the third quarter. OKC’s Kevin Martin boarded a miss but fell when Darrell Arthur bumped him out of bounds. Arthur got the loose ball to Allen for a 74-all tie. After Fisher air-balled his second shot of the third quarter, Arthur’s jumper gave Memphis its first lead since 9-8 at 76-75 with 36.9 seconds left in the third.
Randolph hit six straight in the fourth to get Memphis ahead by one. With the lead back-and-forth, Gasol’s block of Ibaka with 3:16 left and with the shot clock running down kept Memphis down by only one. Gasol had a playoff-career high six blocks.
Memphis saved its best offensive rebounding for last, three straight in the final 90 seconds. The second resulted in a pair of Randolph free throws, one make for a 93-92 lead with less than a minute to play. On the next offensive trip, Mike Conley missed from deep but got his own rebound. Gasol made 1 of 2 from the line, but Durant’s scoop shot sent the game to overtime. Before that make, Durant had three points on 1-of-8 shooting in 18 previous minutes.
2. The Thunder wasted Ibaka’s best game of the series
Oklahoma City finally got what it has been looking for from forward Serge Ibaka … and it still wasn’t enough. So where does coach Scott Brooks go now? Ibaka made his first first-quarter field goal of the series and scored five straight as Oklahoma City took an early 13-9 lead. Ibaka had been 0 for 12 in the three first quarters. He finished with 17 points and 14 boards. Nick Collison added 10 points.
Durant had 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, one a nice dish to Martin for a slam, then a make from deep for Oklahoma City’s largest lead, 17 points with 4:23 left in the first half.
OKC outrebounded Memphis 25-15 in the half (44-41 for the game) and held Memphis to 41 percent shooting in the half to take an eight-point lead into the locker room. The Thunder scored 29 points in the first quarter, but the lead started evaporating as Memphis scored 30 in the second quarter.
3. You’re killing me, smalls! Conley, guards play big roles
Oklahoma City had six fast-break points in the first quarter and won that stat 12-0 for the game. The Thunder had six total fast-break points in Game 1 and seven in Game 2.
Memphis pulled close but the lead went back to 10. That was until the smallest Grizzly out there went to work. When Conley hit a 3-pointer to pull Memphis within five, 64-59, it was his 13th field-goal attempt — not the norm for Memphis. At that point, the point guard was 4-for-5 from deep, capping an 8-0 run. He finished with 24 points, four steals and five assists.
Conley wasn’t the only small guy doing work. Memphis reserve point guard Jerryd Bayless scored nine points and added a free throw on an acrobatic layup in Memphis’ third-quarter rally. After a Durant miss on the other end, Conley found Gasol for a make near the key that got the Grizzlies within 72-70. Gasol would tie it at 72 with two of his 10 in another strong third quarter. Gasol and bigs buddy Randolph each scored 23 points, both with double-doubles.
Oklahoma City got what it needed from its guards too, Martin re-entering the picture with 18 points. Martin scored five straight to open the fourth to break a 76-all tie. It was also Jackson again, who had a driving and emphatic slam and a big 3 for a 26-18 Thunder lead. He finished with 15 points and eight assists.