3 Steals for Russell Westbrook in addition to 20 points
15-8 Advantage the Thunder had in points off turnovers on the night
16 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, a season-high for the man in the middle
17 Points for Kevin Martin as the Thunder’s bench outscored the Grizzlies’ 28-22
19-14 Point differential in the Thunder’s favor in the third quarter
27-for-32 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder on the night
32 Points for Kevin Durant, including 15 in the third quarter
March 20th, 2013
Some nights in the NBA a team can make hustle plays, convert tough baskets and knock down clutch free throws, but the other team makes one more play.
That happened tonight for the Thunder in Memphis as Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club fell 90-89 in overtime against the Grizzlies. It was a tough, grind-it-out battle all night on both sides as the teams combined for only 166 points in regulation. Neither team shot above 36 percent from the field on the night as there were 55 total fouls called in a game that also featured 34 turnovers. The Thunder showed toughness, energy and effort all night, but came up just short in the extra period when Marc Gasol made a tip in just before the buzzer.
“Both teams played extremely hard and physically,” Brooks said. “You can tell. It was hard to get baskets, it was hard to get into your offense. I love the fact that our guys battled. We put ourselves into a chance to win the game.”
Brooks’ squad fell behind by ten points during multiple points in the game, but never gave in or allowed the Grizzlies to run away with this one. By locking in and holding Memphis to just 14 points in the third quarter, a period in which Kevin Durant scored 15 of his game-high 32 points, the Thunder regained momentum and was eventually able to take a six point lead. There were 14 lead changes in the contest, and Memphis rallied late in the fourth quarter by hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer to tie the game and send it into overtime. For each effort one side made, the other competed just as hard.
“I love our competitive spirit,” Brooks said. “Going into this game, we wanted to bounce back from last night. I knew our guys would. That’s how they’re wired. That’s who they are. It was just one of those games. There are probably ten of them a year, where nobody deserves to lose the game.”
There was no better example of the heart, determination and focus the Thunder played with tonight than that of Nick Collison. In 29 minutes of action his numbers didn’t look gaudy, but his physical post presence was enough to help bother the Grizzlies Zach Randolph into a 6-for-23 shooting night that also featured seven turnovers. Collison only took one shot attempt and only snagged five rebounds, but the way he stayed between his man and the basket on every single possession helped the Thunder claw back into this one.
“It was what you want from all players,” Brooks said. “If your players compete like that, you live with the results. This is the game where you live with the results.”
As Brooks noted, the Thunder must live with the results when it plays with this kind of effort, then move on to the next game. Heading to Orlando to face the Magic on Friday, the Thunder will learn from this one and try to get better in order to improve on its 50-19 record. With the understanding that it can withstand poor shooting nights like the one tonight, Brooks’ club will use the strength of its defense and relentlessness on the offensive end to continue to fight the rest of the season.
“Just keep fighting,” Brooks said. “I knew when we were not making shots early in the game, I knew we would keep fighting and play aggressive and give ourselves a chance to win. That’s what we’ve done for a lot of years now. That’s not going to change.”
The Thunder was down by nine points at 53-44 with 3:24 left in the third quarter, but went on a 13-3 run over at the close of the quarter to take a 57-56 lead just prior to the end of the quarter. The run turned the game from one that was controlled by Memphis into one that came down to the wire in overtime. The scoring part of the run was made completely by Kevin Durant on the offensive end as he knocked down a jumper off a pass from Russell Westbrook, then knocked home seven free throws and added a layup, a step-back jumper and a bank shot in for good measure.
Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Westbrook hustles back in transition defense to make a steal. Durant does a great job of moving his feet and keeping his arms high to knock the ball away. Great patience by Durant on the drive late in the shot clock to find Ibaka for a mid-range jumper. Great box out by Collison to draw a foul on Zach Randolph. Fisher steps in on a Memphis fast break to draw a charge. Nice bounce pass by Collison to Martin on a back-door cut. Westbrook hustles at the end of the half to pick up a loose ball and score at the buzzer.
Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Great defense by Ibaka in the paint to stay straight up and force a turnover. Tenacity by Westbrook to run to the front of the rim and tip-in a loose offensive rebound. Martin dives to save a loose ball that leads to a Durant bucket. Collison dives on the floor to snag a jump ball and switch possession by winning the jump ball. Jackson fights underneath the basket to snag a defensive rebound. Incredible post defense by Collison on the block to stay tough and force a Randolph miss. Incredible unselfishness by Perkins to send the ball across the court to Martin for three.
“You have to compete like that. We all have that choice and we made a choice to compete the way we’re capable of competing. It came down to one play here or there. They made one more than us.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks