Grizzlies continue making noise in West with Thunderous win
A double-digit second-half lead by the home team slowly disappeared Monday night as a young but resilient road team fought back and refused to quit in a potential playoff preview.
One night after pulling off an 18-point second-half comeback in Dallas, capped by a Zach Randolph game-winner with 0.3 seconds to play, the Memphis Grizzlies found themselves in a similar predicament as the Mavericks the night before—trying to hang on.
And this time, the home team did just that. Memphis prevailed for a second-straight game, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 107-101 at FedExForum to move to seven games above .500 for the first time since 2006.
A 17-point Grizzlies lead at 73-56 with 5:04 to play in the third quarter was cut all the way to one in just over 12 minutes, down to 93-92 with 4:18 left in the game, but Mike Conley and Zach Randolph wouldn’t let it get away. The pair combined for 18 fourth-quarter points to lead the Grizzlies to a 3-1 series win over a top four club in the Western Conference for the second consecutive night.
“(It took) a collective effort from the whole team,” said Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, who finished with a game-high tying 20 points. “Guys are focused and locked in. Getting back-to-back wins against these two top teams pretty much shows that we are very ambitious.”
That ambition was evident from the get-go, as Memphis never trailed by more than two points all game and slowly started building a lead in the second quarter. Fourteen of the Grizzlies’ 20 bench points came in the second frame as many of the starters, all five of whom finished in double figures, caught their breaths.
“You’ll never know tomorrow what’s going to happen on this team,” Grizzlies forward Darrell Arthur said. “You never know who is going to step up and make plays.”
The Grizzlies closed the half on a 23-10 run to take a 12-point lead into the locker room. Memphis continued building on that lead in the third until Kevin Durant scored nine of his 23 points on three shots from long range to get Oklahoma City within striking distance heading into the fourth.
James Harden cut the lead to 97-94 with a lay-up with 3:02 to play, but following a Tony Allen free throw, Conley all but sealed the game when he picked off a Harden pass and took it in for a reverse lay-up.
Conley’s defense down the stretch capped off a great night for the speedy point guard, who finished with 20 points and nine assists while keeping Westbrook in check despite 27 points from the Thunder playmaker.
“Mike (Conley) did a good job staying in front of (Westbrook),” Allen said. “He frustrated him a little. He got in early foul trouble. That was pretty much the ballgame.”
If that wasn’t the deciding factor, than perhaps it was the Grizzlies’ collective ball-security, as the team tied a season-low seven turnovers.
Or perhaps it was another exceptional night down-low. Anchored by Randolph (17 points, six rebounds) and Marc Gasol (18 points, six rebounds), the Grizz outscored the Thunder 68-46 in the paint.
“We weren’t stopping the basketball and they were getting too many easy lanes down the paint,” said Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks. “Most of their points were in the paint tonight, and that’s hard to defend. We allowed the ball to get there time after time.”
Whatever it was that decided the game, the result was the same: another quality win against another quality opponent, leaving the Grizzlies looking more and more like a team that can compete in the postseason.
“We have a goal to make the playoffs,” said Arthur. “That’s what we have to do.”