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Fran Blinebury

O.J. Mayo
O.J. Mayo was one of the catalysts in the Grizzlies' small-ball comeback.
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Downsized Grizzlies able to cut deficit, force overtime

Posted May 7 2011 9:52PM

MEMPHIS -- It was like the pipe that bursts in the middle of the night, the speeding truck that comes around the corner without its headlights on.

Nobody saw it coming.

"I would love to say our game plan was to invoke the classic, under-utilized rope-a-dope theory," said Shane Battier. But I'd be pulling something."

What the Grizzlies pulled was maybe the world's biggest rabbit out of their hats with their 101-93 overtime victory over the Thunder that gives them a 2-1 lead in the second round playoff series.

Give Memphis coach Lionel Hollins credit for the nifty bit of coaching magic. By downsizing his lineup to start the fourth quarter, he gave his team the jumpstart it needed to come all the way back from 16 points down to force overtime.

"I preach to my guys all year long it's not over till it's 00:00 on the clock," Hollins said. "We were dead in the water and we needed to do something to get some energy.

"We went small. You're just trying. You just keep shifting lineups putting players in because we're down 13, 14, 15, 16 points and we eventually found something that worked. We ran with it for 7-8 minutes and then I came back with the two big guys, Zach (Randolph) and Marc, (Gasol)."

That the Grizzlies were able to come back was remarkable considering their lack of energy, inspiration and execution for the first three quarters. But once the small lineup hit the floor, enthusiasm and intensity spread like wildfire.

O.J. Mayo took on the task of guarding Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, who had burned the Grizzlies for 13 points in the third quarter. Meanwhile Tony Allen became like a pit bull hanging onto the pant leg of the NBA's leading scorer Kevin Durant, who managed just two field goals on seven attempts in the fourth quarter.

"It's team defense," Allen said. "It's all of us playing in sync as a team. It's the coaching staff preparing us with all of their plays. It's everything working together."

It was the Grizzlies ultimately being the Grizzlies and now are one of only four teams remaining in the playoffs that have not lost a home game. Yes, there are the 50-win-a-season-for-12-years Mavericks, the star-studded Heat, the vaunted Celtics and the Grizzlies, now standing at 4-0 in the FedExForum.

The Grizzlies had already won in dramatic fashion in the first round, getting a pair of wins on late shots. But this was the topper.

"It gives us confidence, it tells us and reminds every guy here in this locker room what we can do, how far we can go," said Randolph, who scored 21 points and set a Grizzlies playoff record with 21 rebounds.

"This was weird," Randolph said. "We didn't play our best basketball tonight. One of those games we had to fight and scratch and claw. You know, I can't really say how we did it."

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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