MEMPHIS — Grizzlies’ fans received the popular yellow Growl Towel for Thursday’s Game 3 against Oklahoma City. For Game 4, Memphis might need to hand out paper bags. The Grizzlies built a 17-point lead — in the fourth quarter — but survived a second straight overtime in a 98-95 win. After blowing its second consecutive late lead, Memphis will bring a 2-1 series advantage to FedExForum on Saturday. Here are three observations from Game 3.
Allen is undoubtedly one of the best defenders in the NBA. He may leave even less doubt that he’s the best quote in the NBA.
Memphis point guard Mike Conley said during the regular season that the Grizzlies take Allen’s good with his bad.
With Memphis leading 85-81 and 33.1 seconds to play, Russell Westbrook took a 3-pointer at the top of the key and a foul from Allen, yet another four-point play for Oklahoma City in a series already rolling on highlight reels.
"That was a bonehead play on myself," said Allen. "I take full responsibility for fouling."
With less than a second left in overtime and Memphis up four, Allen fouled Westbrook before he crossed midcourt. Three free throws.
Allen hit 8-of-15 shots off the bench for 16 points. He played more than 31 minutes to more than one "Tony" chant. He scored four straight to break an 81-all tie late in regulation, then fouled Westbrook.
He also had two steals and nine rebounds, all while chasing Kevin Durant, who had five of Oklahoma City’s 16 turnovers — and 30 points.
"I get in where I fit in," said Allen. "For the most part, I’m trying to be the best defender in the world. That’s what I hold my hat on. I take pride in that. That’s all I focus on. But if offensive opportunity come, best believe I’m taking advantage."
For the second straight game, Beno Udrih downplayed the suspension of Memphis backup point guard Nick Calathes. In Games 2 and 3, both Memphis wins, Udrih is 11-for-14 for 26 points and six rebounds in 28 minutes.
After being outplayed in Game 1, Memphis’ bench outscored Oklahoma City 34-9. Through the three games they are averaging 30.7 points to the Thunder’s 16.
"Beno has given us a huge boost. Tony’s been terrific. Mike Miller, he didn’t make a shot, but he changes the spacing on the floor completely," said Memphis coach Dave Joerger. "Some nights it’s been Kosta (Koufos). Some nights it’s been Ed (Davis)."
Zach Randolph scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds and Marc Gasol scored 14 with eight boards as Memphis won the paint 62-48.
Joerger said he went with Koufos as his primary big behind Gasol because of a gut feeling. Koufos didn’t play at all in Game 2 and scored 12 on Thursday with two rebounds and a pair of assists. Davis played 9 minutes in Game 2 and the final second of Game 3.
Reggie Jackson is now 3-for-19 off the bench for the Thunder. He did have eight rebounds in the loss.
Durant and Russell Westbrook did their part, sort of. The duo combined for 60 points, but it came on 19-of-53 shooting. Durant was 0-for-8 from beyond the arc, Westbrook 4-of-13.
"Russ, we know he can go get a shot. He rises up. He’s so athletic, can get off the floor, can get a shot anytime," said Joerger. "So I don’t think they’re gonna go 4-for-21 again."
The duo, and coach Scott Brooks, talked of sticking together as a team after the loss. That and watching a whole lot of film through the rest of the night, but it may also include letting other guys shoot more. Other three starters Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha were a combined 11-of-16 from the field. Throw in Durant and Westbrook and Memphis held the Thunder to 39.1 percent shooting. Oklahoma City was held to less than 40 percent from the field only nine times in the regular season.
Durant and Westbrook combined for five assists, though the 53 missed shots jades that figure.
"We have to be better. We own up to it," said Durant. "We’ve got to get guys involved, Caron, Reggie, Nick, Serge, everybody, Thabo. We’ll take that on our shoulders and figure it out."
Russell was asked to reply to the same question and given the stats of his teammates. Your thoughts, Russell?
"Is that a question or you just telling me something?" he asked. "Yeah, I agree."
Frustration has set in. But this series is far, far from over.
The Grizzlies and Thunder have now played seven overtime games since the 2010-11 season. Memphis is 6-1 in those games. Memphis was 10-4 in the regular season in games decided by three points or less and one of four teams in the NBA with double-digit, one-possession wins.
If that doesn’t bode confidence for the Grizzlies, nothing will, because no lead is safe in this series. And these teams now know each other well enough to expect the unexpected.
Memphis has won 16 of 30 meetings in the four seasons, this the third playoff series.
"We’ve been here before, with this Grizzlies team, a team we respect," said Brooks. "We knew it was going to be a very physical series, a very play-hard series and it hasn’t let anybody down."
There was a Game 1 blowout. Game 2 featured Durant making a 3-pointer while falling on his behind, plus a free throw that led to overtime. Game 3 featured a nearly seven-minute Memphis scoring drought that drained a 17-point lead. It featured the behind of Perkins on Miller. He literally just sat on top of him for a good three or four seconds — in front of a referee. No call and who could blame him. Let these two play.
Everyone best stay in their spot until the horn sounds. There’s still no proof that neither Durant or Westbrook can’t make a 6-point shot, especially with Allen on them.
"Exciting maybe to watch," said Joerger.
Maybe a bit more stressful than fun from his seat.