NEXT GAME: Tuesday, April 29
7 Assists for Russell Westbrook, who also had 15 points, ten rebounds and three steals
14 Lead changes in the game, in addition to 12 ties
16 Fast break points for the Thunder, where it shot 7-for-14
18-for-20 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, including 8-for-8 for Reggie Jackson
32 Points for Reggie Jackson, a career-high, on 11-for-16 shooting in addition to nine rebounds
37.2 Shooting percentage the Thunder held the Grizzlies to, including 20-for-51 in the paint
59-49 The Thunder’s rebounding advantage, including 13 from Kevin Durant
April 26th, 2014
MEMPHIS – The third overtime was the charm for the Thunder.
After falling in Games 2 and 3 in overtime against the Memphis Grizzlies, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ squad returned the favor on the road on Saturday night, emerging victorious 92-89 in a hard-fought defensive battle.
Overtime saw six lead changes as the Thunder started off the scoring with a Kevin Durant jumper. The Grizzlies would eventually take a one-point lead with 1:38 remaining, but would only score two more points the rest of the way. The Thunder’s defense clamped down, forcing three difficult missed shots by Mike Conley, while Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson knocked down eight consecutive gutty free throws to ice the game.
Neither team shot better than 37 percent from the floor, but the Thunder took care of business on the boards and at the free throw line, making the difference in this one. By shooting 18-for-20 at the free throw line and holding a ten-rebound edge on the glass, the Thunder gained extra possessions and capitalized on scoring chances.
“Another leave it on the floor game for both teams,” Brooks said. “You kind of expect it. Everybody did a good job of chipping in and putting us in this position.”
Despite poor shooting nights from Durant and Russell Westbrook, who combined to score 30 points, the Thunder’s leaders impacted the game with their defense, rebounding, passing and leadership. The Thunder’s high sense of awareness and communication on the defensive end held down the fort until shots started to fall. By impacting the ball at the top of the key and preventing driving lanes, the Thunder held Memphis to just 52 points through three quarters, while forcing 14 turnovers and blocking 11 shots.
“If you only think you can impact the game by scoring, we’re not going to be successful,” Brooks said. “You impact the game many, many different ways. We’re built on defense. We’re built on teamwork.”
On the offensive end, the Thunder played with more pace, rhythm and flow, although for most of the night shots just couldn’t seem to drop. In the fourth quarter, Brooks tapped Reggie Jackson to handle the ball and get the Thunder’s engine revved back up. After pacing the team with his scoring in the first three quarters when he had 15, but in the fourth quarter and overtime Jackson posted 17 points en route to a career-high 32 total for the night.
With Westbrook and Durant pressured and being played physically all night, Jackson’s ability to break down the defense was a crucial part of the Thunder’s attack. By getting around his man, playing with Thunder bigs in the pick-and-roll and aggressively going to the rim, Jackson was able to beat slower defenders off the bounce and get into the heart of the Grizzlies’ defense.
“We were struggling there in the fourth, and he just took it over,” Durant said. “He was aggressive going to the rim all night. He just told himself before the game to be assertive. Defensively he was good. Offensively he attacked the defense and opened it up for everybody. We rolled all night. He made huge, huge plays and I’m so proud of him.”
“Kevin and Russell are obviously a big part of what we do, but we have some sets that we put in with Reggie being able to attack and create and go at a mismatch that we think is to our advantage,” Brooks explained. “The lanes are wider. Reggie was able to create and find a bunch of buckets for himself around the basket.”
All five Thunder players made the extra effort to play with the heart, pride and focus that was needed to take Game 4 in Memphis. The commitment to team rebounding was evident, as Serge Ibaka, Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to grab 37 rebounds. Most impressive on the night was that despite seeing its 14-point third quarter lead evaporate, the Thunder never gave in. Even down by five points with just over a minute remaining, the Thunder didn’t panic, and feels proud it gutted out a crucial win, tying the best-of-seven series at 2-2 with the chance to play two out of the final three potential games at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"Now it's tied up 2-2," Brooks said. "That means that we have to play with the same type of intensity on both ends of the floor in front of our home crowd, which are the best fans in the league."
The Thunder finished the job in overtime, but a crucial stretch at the end of regulation helped the team send this one to another five minute period. Down by five points at 80-75 with 1:20 left in regulation, the Thunder took a timeout, and after the play broke down, Reggie Jackson stepped back and sank a 26-foot three-pointer from the right wing. Kevin Durant then made a steal on the Grizzlies’ ensuing possession, leading to a Jackson runner in the lane, which tied up the game. Memphis had another chance, but the Thunder forced a Marc Gasol missed jumper and then bothered Tony Allen on a layup attempt to force overtime.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Kevin Durant does a nice job of tipping a loose defensive rebound out to a teammate. Strong defense by Kendrick Perkins to force his man into a turnover that leads to a Thunder run-out. Nick Collison bodies up his man and forces him into a turnover. Durant and Reggie Jackson blow up a Memphis fast break. Excellent ball movement by the Thunder to create a wide open three-pointer by Jackson. Excellent hustle by Russell Westbrook to get back in transition defense to bother a layup attempt.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Laser sharp pass by Durant to Serge Ibaka through the lane for a wide open jumper. Nice pump-fake by Ibaka to get his man up in the air and create a driving lane. Nice box out by Collison to free up a teammate to grab a loose rebound. Durant does a nice job of refusing to bite on pump fakes. Great hustle by Jackson to sky high for an offensive rebound to regain possession. Huge box out by Jackson on Marc Gasol to fight for the rebound, then save the ball by throwing it off his opponent.
We fought so hard to put ourselves in position to win the game. Three overtimes in a row - I don’t know when the last time that happened. To come out with the victory is a relief and it’s a great feeling.” – guard Russell Westbrook