Thunder miss chance to tie for best mark
O.J. Mayo passed up one 3-pointer with the Memphis Grizzlies’ lead dwindling in the final minute.
He wasn’t going to do it again.
Mayo scored 22 points, including a key 3-pointer with 17 seconds left, and the Grizzlies prevented Oklahoma City from tying for the NBA’s best record by beating the Thunder 94-88 on Monday night.
”It was a good look. I had my feet set,” Mayo said. ”I just wanted to knock it down.”
One possession earlier, Mayo was in about the same spot and passed the ball to Zach Randolph, who had to force a 3-point attempt that hit the backboard and didn’t touch the rim for a shot clock violation.
Given another chance, he connected on a 3 to make it 90-86 with 17 seconds to play. The Grizzlies hung on from there to win for the fourth time in five games and snap the Thunder’s six-game winning streak.
Oklahoma City had pulled within a game of league-leading Chicago by blowing out the Bulls a day earlier, but the Grizzlies took the lead just after halftime and never gave it back.
Memphis won despite playing without starting point guard Mike Conley (sore right ankle) and reserve Dante Cunningham (sprained left ankle) for the second straight game.
”We’re missing a couple guys that are big for us but we’ve got to keep playing,” said center Marc Gasol, who had 13 points and eight rebounds. ”We’re a no-excuse team. We’ve got to play. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”
It was the latest chapter in a budding rivalry created by last year’s epic seven-game Western Conference semifinal series – including a triple-overtime game and one with a single overtime.
Oklahoma City won Game 7 on its home court and had won all three previous meetings this season by a total of 15 points.
”It’s always like this,” Kevin Durant said. ”This is our fourth time playing these guys. It’s tough to beat a team four times in a row. They came out and made plays and you’ve got to give credit to those guys. They played hard.”
Durant led the Thunder with 21 points and Russell Westbrook scored 19, with 12 coming as Oklahoma City tried to rally in the fourth quarter. After averaging 31.7 points and one turnover in his previous three games, Westbrook went 5 for 16 and committed four turnovers.
”We played them real strong. That’s basically what it was,” Memphis’ Rudy Gay said. ”It’s tough to play against this team, especially here, but we basically just played hard and defensively got into them.”
The Grizzlies moved up to fifth place in the extremely tight Western Conference, improving their position in the midst of playing nine out of 11 games on the road. Monday’s game also opened the team’s only back-to-back-to-back stretch this season.
”It’s a very tough stretch,” Gay said. ”We need all that we can get right now, as tough as this stretch is.”
”It’s pretty much just go out and hoop every day. We play games every day, so we just try to go out and compete and give ourselves the best chance of winning,” Mayo added.
Memphis allowed Oklahoma City a season-low two fast-break points – coming on Westbrook’s free throws with 1:12 remaining.
”They didn’t turn the ball over. A lot of people think we just get the ball out and run. Our fast-break points usually come off of us playing defense and tonight they took care of the ball a little better,” Durant said. ”We missed some in transition as well but, all in all, they did a great job.”
The Grizzlies sustained an early 12-0 Oklahoma City run and kept it tight despite shooting only 31 percent in the first half. Memphis even led in the final minute before Thabo Sefolosha’s 3-pointer from the right side gave the Thunder a 44-42 edge at halftime.
Gay and Gasol scored back-to-back baskets to start the second half, and Memphis continued to pull away before building its lead to 75-66 after a string of five straight points by Mayo. The last came on a free throw following Thunder coach Scott Brooks’ third technical foul of the season with 10:03 remaining, one possession after officials overruled an initial decision to grant Harden three free throws and instead gave the Thunder the ball on the sideline.
Westbrook, who had missed 10 of his first 12 shots, drove for a basket to start a run of eight straight Thunder points and Serge Ibaka missed a free throw that could have tied it at 75.
Gasol answered with a basket from the right block and the Grizzlies were able to restore their nine-point lead with a 12-4 run, going up 87-78 after Randolph’s basket inside with 3:16 to play.
Memphis then went nearly 3 minutes without scoring as the Thunder closed within one again following Ibaka’s jumper and then a string of six straight free throws – with Westbrook hitting the last of his four in a row with 39 seconds remaining.
After a pair of free throws by Westbrook, Zach Randolph answered with two of his own with 13 seconds remaining. Durant’s 3-pointer with 6 seconds left was off target, and Allen hit two free throws to seal it with four ticks left.
Notes: Brooks said before the game that Grizzlies reserve G Daequan Cook was cleared to play after missing the previous six games with a sprained ligament in his right knee. He was on the active roster but did not play. … Oklahoma City assistant coach Maurice Cheeks was among the finalists who did not get enough votes for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The hall announced Monday that five-time All-Star Reggie Miller and longtime coach Don Nelson are among this year’s 12 inductees. … Oklahoma City was held below 90 points for the third time this season.