Playoff Recap: Thunder vs. Grizzlies Game 3
NEXT GAME: Saturday, April 26
5 Blocked shots by Kevin Durant, in addition to two steals
5-for-20 Shooting numbers that Kendrick Perkins held Zach Randolph to on the night
9 Steals by the Thunder, including two each for Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka
13 Rebounds for Russell Westbrook, a game-high, in addition to 30 points
15 Offensive rebounds for the Thunder, leading to 13 second chance points
17-9 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night
24-14 The scoring differential in the fourth quarter, in the Thunder’s favor
30 Points for Kevin Durant, in addition to nine rebounds and three assists
GAME IN REVIEW
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
April 24th, 2014
MEMPHIS – Another spectacular four-point play capped a 21-4 Thunder run to close regulation and send the game to overtime, but again in the extra period, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club came up a bit short.
For the second straight game the Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies did battle into overtime, with the Thunder falling 98-95 on Thursday night in Memphis. Brooks’ squad trailed by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, but didn’t allow Memphis to score for six straight minutes and managed to rally back and tie the game at 81 apiece. Tony Allen Scored consecutive baskets for the Grizzlies, but Russell Westbrook hit a three-pointer while being fouled, completing a four-point play to make it 85-85. After a defensive stop, Kevin Durant had a chance at a three-pointer to win in regulation with 2.4 seconds left, but missed.
In the extra period, Durant scored on an old-fashioned three-point play to jump-start the scoring, but the Grizzlies scored the next seven points to take a 93-88 lead with 2:05 remaining. The Thunder got as close as three down the stretch in the closing minutes, but the Grizzlies got a timely basket from Marc Gasol and the Thunder failed to convert on its three-point attempts, leaving the Thunder down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Although disappointed in the loss, veteran leaders like Kendrick Perkins, Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha and Caron Butler felt the Thunder can look to that 17-0 fourth quarter run as momentum heading into Game 4.
“We hung our hats on the defensive end and it translated to offense,” Perkins said. “We have to put 48 minutes together against this team. We’re going to keep fighting.”
“I saw a lot of guys imposing their will on the game,” Butler said. “From Thabo to Kendrick, it was a collective effort. Everybody was pulling together, rallying together and playing like a team. We just fell a little short.”
Durant and Westbrook, who each scored 30 points for the game, combined for 15 points in the final quarter when the Thunder out-scored the Grizzlies 24-14. The Thunder shot 7-for-16 in the final frame, but got to the free throw line ten times and out-rebounded the Grizzlies by three. It was on the defensive end where the Thunder did most of its damage, however, holding Memphis to just 36.8 percent shooting, including 0-for-5 from behind the three-point line while also not allowing any free throw attempts.
“We found something down in the fourth that was working and we have to stick with that,” Sefolosha said. “We just have to play basketball, trust one another, play hard and things will go our way.”
“When you go on a 17-0 run you’re obviously getting defensive stops,” Fisher said. “We were doing a good job of getting stops and turning that into pace and momentum.”
A key aspect of the Thunder’s fourth quarter defense, and really throughout the night, was Perkins’ work against Zach Randolph. Although after the game all the Perkins cared about was the final result on the scoreboard, he gave his team a chance to send it to overtime by holding Randolph to 5-for-20 shooting from the field and forcing him into three turnovers. Moving forward, if the Thunder can get equally strong defensive efforts at all five positions on the court for 48 minutes, it will give itself a great chance to take Game 4.
“I’m just going to try to make it tough night-in and night-out,” Perkins said. “Zach is going to keep being aggressive… All that 5-for-20 doesn’t matter. It’s who comes away with the W.”
Offensively, the Thunder shot just 39.1 percent from the field, including 5-for-28 from the three-point line and a lower-than-normal 73.3 percent from the free throw line. In addition to playing with more intensity, focus and composure, the Thunder knows that part of the way it can get on the comeback trail is simply for shots to start falling. By creating better ball and player movement, Brooks’ club can give itself higher percentage looks than it got in Game 3, and the team is confident that it can do so.
“We definitely have a lot more basketball to be played,” Sefolosha said. “We’re going to keep working, keep trusting each other and get it right.”
The game turned from what seemed like a game the Grizzlies had total control of into an overtime contest during a six minute stretch at the end of the fourth quarter. The Thunder trailed 81-64 with 7:44 remaining in the game, but after a timeout, it went on the comeback trail, scoring 17 consecutive points. Despite not prevailing in overtime, it was the best stretch of Thunder basketball all night, as the team forced Memphis into eight missed shots and five turnovers.
The 17-0 run was kick-started by three free throws from Thabo Sefolosha after he was fouled on an attempt in the corner. Kevin Durant then drove the lane to find Kendrick Perkins for a bucket, then Westbrook hit Serge Ibaka in transition for a dunk after Sefolosha made a steal. Both teams came up empty on the next five possessions, then Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for three free throws to make it 81-74 Grizzlies. A minute later, Kendrick Perkins put-back a Russell Westbrook miss, then Durant drove the lane for a dunk. With 57.3 seconds remaining in regulation, Westbrook made a steal and passed to Durant, who then hit Westbrook in the corner for a game-tying three-pointer.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Strong Thunder defense forces Memphis into a turnover on the very first possession. Beautiful back-door cut by Thabo Sefolosha and a nice dish from Kendrick Perkins for a bucket. Russell Westbrook dives on the floor and out of bounds to save two loose balls. Nice pick-and-roll defense by Reggie Jackson and Nick Collison to force a turnover by moving their bodies. Strong man-to-man defense by Westbrook forces his man to slip and turn the ball over. Nice box out by Serge Ibaka to free up Durant for a defensive rebound.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Serge Ibaka stands tall in the lane on a Marc Gasol post-up, leading to a defensive rebound and fast break. All five men sprint the floor off a Grizzlies miss to get a fast break. Excellent team defensive principles and rotations forces a Grizzlies shot clock violation. Perkins stays tough and moves his feet in the lane to force his man into a turnover on the block. Durant tips a loose defensive rebound to Ibaka to regain possession.
”We have to come out and play with a little bit more of a sense of urgency and hopefully our shots go down. We just have to believe in each other and stick together.” – forward Kevin Durant