The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-105 in an overtime thriller Monday night to even the Western Conference quarterfinals at one game apiece.
With the Thunder trailing by five points with 18 seconds remaining in regulation, Kevin Durant converted the unlikeliest of four-point plays from the left corner before Kendrick Perkins cleaned up a missed three-pointer by Russell Westbrook as time expired to send the game to overtime.
However, the Grizzlies went on to dominate the extra session, outscoring the Thunder 12-6 over the decisive five-minute stretch.
Memphis boasted five double-figure scorers in the win, including Zach Randolph, who poured in a team-high 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting. He also scored eight of the team's 12 points in the extra session.
Grizzlies snap their 5-game postseason losing streak. Road teams now 6-3 in NBA playoffs— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 22, 2014
Despite a slow start, Durant finished with a game-high 36 points on 12-of-28 shooting (5-of-12 from three) and 11 rebounds, while Westbrook poured in 29 points on a night when the Thunder shot 39.8 percent from the field and 30 percent from three.
Kevin Durant (OKC): 3rd player in NBA history with at least 35 Points, 10 Rebounds and 5 3-pt FGM in a playoff game (L. James, D. Nowitzki)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 22, 2014
Conversely, Memphis shot 49.4 percent from the field and 40 percent from three one game after posting shooting splits of 36.3 from the floor and 18.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Key Player Grades: Oklahoma City
Kevin Durant, Small Forward
One of the primary reasons Oklahoma City trailed by three at halftime was Kevin Durant had the same number of shots as he did points in the first half thanks to Tony Allen's stingy defense.
KD's 8 points is his second-lowest point total in a 1st half this season. He had 7 points vs Griz in 1st half Feb. 28 and ended up with 37— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) April 22, 2014
And the larger the sample size gets, the more evident it's becoming that Allen is capable of disrupting Durant's rhythm, albeit not for the entirety of a single contest.
"We have to do a better job of getting their hands off of him," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said, speaking of Memphis' defense on Durant, according to CBS Sports' Royce Young.
Kevin Durant has made 6 of his first 20 shots against Tony Allen in this series— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 22, 2014
When all was said and done, though, Durant managed to post a double-double consisting of 36 points and and 11 rebounds, including the all-important four-point play to cut the deficit to one with 13.8 seconds to go in regulation.
Regardless of the outcome, that shot—coupled with his late-game scoring dominance—will endure as one of the postseason's indelible images.
So let Game 2 serve as a cautionary tale to opponents: Even when Durant looks like he's headed for an off night, the soon-to-be MVP is capable of stealing the show in ways we've never seen before.
Russell Westbrook, Point Guard
Oklahoma City's offense looked uncharacteristically sluggish in the game's opening frame, but Russell Westbrook found ways to keep the Thunder afloat with his aggression.
Barreling into the lane with his trademark explosiveness, Westbrook racked up eight of the team's first 12 points, four of which came at the free-throw line. And even when Westbrook's buckets didn't count, they were staggering.
However, Westbrook was too aggressive on defense and overplayed Mike Conley on a number of occasions, which allowed the Memphis point guard to penetrate easily.
Westbrook is killer around the rim tonight (as usual), but he's been somewhat of a matador defensively. Conley getting by him like crazy.— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) April 22, 2014
That said, Westbrook doesn't deserve too much flak despite some questionable late-game decision-making. His 17 first-half points were absolutely crucial given that the Thunder shot 38.1 percent from the field over a 24-minute span that was played to the Grizzlies' liking.
Oklahoma City's most consistent offensive contributor from start to finish, Westbrook's 11-of-28 shooting (1-of-7 from three, 6-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line) helped propel him to a solid 29-point outing.
The bundle of energy casually added a team-high eight assists and seven rebounds to his final line as well.
Serge Ibaka, Power Forward
Apparently, Serge Ibaka was miffed that he failed to capture Defensive Player of the Year honors. The league's leading shot-blocker asserted his dominance around the rim with a tremendous stretch that included two emphatic swats of Ed Davis.
Serge Ibaka is trying to make a DPOY statement tonight. Holy moly mother.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 22, 2014
Of course, those rejections shouldn't have come as a surprise given that Ibaka entered Monday averaging 2.9 blocks per game for his career in the postseason, the highest mark among active players, according to STATS LLC.
But that wasn't all, because Ibaka still had plenty to contribute on the offensive end. Whether he was cleaning up misses around the rim or knocking down mid-range jumpers, Ibaka was doing it all.
The two-way force posted one of the evening's most complete lines with 15 points (6-of-12 shooting), 11 rebounds and a game-high five blocks.
Thabo Sefolosha, Shooting Guard
For the second straight game, Thabo Sefolosha was nearly invisible on the offensive end.
But guess what? No one will remember, because his steal with under a minute to go in overtime led to a Durant free throw that tied the game up at 105.
All told, the perimeter stopper generated seven points and seven rebounds in addition to three assists and two steals.
Kendrick Perkins, Center
Randolph couldn't establish any offensive rhythm during Memphis' relatively prosperous first half, and Kendrick Perkins' defense was a major reason why.
With Ibaka cross-matched on Marc Gasol, Randolph drew the feisty Perkins, who limited Randolph to 1-of-5 shooting from the field during the first quarter. That aggression was maintained throughout, although Randolph eventually found ways to make an impact in traditionally scrappy ways.
But forget the defense for a second: When was the last time Perkins made a memorable offensive play in a positive context? Because when he capitalized on Westbrook's miss with a putback at the end of regulation to send things to overtime, all past transgressions were forgotten.
Kendrick Perkins has earned his year's salary tonight. Not just for the putback either.— Taco Trey Kerby (@treykerby) April 22, 2014
Caron Butler, Sixth Man
Scott Brooks didn't entrust his bench with particularly meaningful minutes in Game 2, which meant fewer opportunities for Caron Butler to make a profound impact.
With Oklahoma City's scoring confined largely to Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka, Butler contributed just three points on 1-of-4 shooting, although he did drop one of Oklahoma City's nine triples at the start of the fourth quarter.
Without fail, Derek Fisher reappears every postseason and leaves his mark on a handful of games. Monday was a modified version of one of those nights, as Fisher scored a quick seven points in relief of Westbrook to steal the show momentarily.
Oklahoma City badly needed some clean looks at the basket after generating zero fast-break points in the first quarter, and Fisher answered the call.
Unfortunately, the Thunder's bench didn't perform admirably as a cohesive unit, with Reggie Jackson managing two points (0-of-5 shooting) in 14 minutes, while Nick Collison mustered two points and three rebounds in 13 minutes.
Against such a tenacious Grizzlies defense, Oklahoma City is going to need more balanced scoring as it heads to FedExForum.
Key Player Grades: Memphis
Mike Conley, Point Guard
The Grizzlies offense struggled from mid-range throughout the first quarter, and it was imperative for it to find a way to generate quick, easy buckets.
Fortunately, Mike Conley was up to the task, using his aggression off the dribble and awareness in transition to provide Memphis with a much-needed offensive spark.
As the game progressed, buckets were never easy to come by.
But Conley did a nice job of taking what the defense gave him and facilitating to the tune of 19 points (7-of-16 shooting, 0-of-3 from three) and a game-high 12 assists while managing to stay composed despite missing the front end of a key pair of free throws that could have iced the game.
Thanks to one of the league's tightest handles and craftiest floaters, Conley continued to hold his own against the more physically gifted Westbrook.
Marc Gasol, Center
Through two-and-a-half quarters, Marc Gasol looked simply lifeless on the offensive end.
And while his aggression ramped up slightly, Gasol never looked truly comfortable. Clean looks below the free-throw line weren't always available, and Ibaka's length posed real problems down low for the former Defensive Player of the Year.
But as we've come to expect, Gasol wasn't totally defined by his scoring prowess (or lack thereof). Still one of the league's most versatile bigs, Gasol dished out seven assists and pulled down seven rebounds while recording a plus/minus rating of plus-two before fouling out.
Zach Randolph, Power Forward
After recording a 21-point, 11-rebound double-double on Saturday, Zach Randolph responded with an equally impressive effort that didn't truly take shape until the game's closing stages.
A first-half slog against Perkins kept Randolph in check, but Memphis made a more concerted effort to get him the ball in opportune spots on the low blocks coming out of the locker room.
Z-Bo had 8 points, 4 rebounds in that OT period. OKC had 6pts, 3rebs.— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) April 22, 2014
4th quarter and overtime: Zach Randolph 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 5 rebounds.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 22, 2014
It was hardly pretty, but Randolph's team-high 25 points was a welcome sight with the Grizzlies lacking a true go-to scorer on a night when Memphis' scoring was evenly distributed. He did, however, only manage six rebounds in 41 minutes.
Tony Allen, Sixth Man
From the moment Tony Allen stepped on the floor, the Grizzlies looked like a different team. Lethargic over the first six minutes of the first quarter, Memphis came alive the moment Allen entered in place of Tayshaun Prince.
Whether it was disrupting passing lanes, forcing Oklahoma City to settle for perimeter shots, making extra passes or getting out and forcing the issue on the fast break, Allen once again breathed life into the Memphis attack on offense and defense.
Totaling eight points, eight rebounds, three assists and a game-high four steals in 35 minutes, Allen proved why he may wind up being the series' biggest X-factor.
Tony Allen continues to show why he is the best perimeter defender in the league. Two game winning stops there.— Jared Weiss (@CLNS_JaredWeiss) April 22, 2014
Courtney Lee, Shooting Guard
One of Memphis' few perimeter threats capable of creating his own shot, Courtney Lee helped steady the Grizzlies offense to the tune of 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting (1-of-2 from three).
And despite spending a portion of the third quarter in the locker room after tweaking his ankle, Lee still managed to play 42 minutes, 22 of which came in the first half.
With Memphis becoming increasingly reliant on mid-range jump shots against the Thunder's stout interior defense, Lee's ability to space the floor and convert off the bounce and in spot-up situations may dictate how effective the Grizzlies remain on offense over the duration of the series.
Tayshaun Prince, Small Forward
Prince played just four minutes in the Grizzlies' Game 1 loss due to illness and didn't boast the demeanor of a particularly healthy or locked-in wing during Game 2.
And with Allen a superior alternative on both ends of the floor, it simply didn't behoove Memphis to give Prince any semblance of extended playing time working against Durant.
Not sure why the Grizzlies would ever willingly run mid-post isolations for Tayshaun Prince on Kevin Durant.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 22, 2014
In 14 uneventful minutes, Prince totaled two points (1-of-4 shooting), one rebound and one dime.
With Nick Calathes serving a 20-game suspension, one of the major question marks for Memphis this postseason regarded Beno Udrih's ability to step up and play meaningful reserve minutes.
Dueling with Fisher, Udrih provided refreshing offensive stability for the Grizzlies' second unit in tandem with Mike Miller and Ed Davis.
The scrappy trio came in and made an immediate impact, the most significant of which came courtesy of Udrih, who scored six points in his first five minutes and 14 points overall, which equaled the output of all Thunder bench contributors combined.
And while Davis was denied several times by the forceful hand of Ibaka, he wasted no time making an impact on the glass, racking up six rebounds (four offensive) in nine minutes.
Miller chipped in nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from three, including a huge triple that put the Grizzlies up two with under a minute remaining in regulation.
What's Up Next?
The series now shifts to Memphis for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 is slated to tip off at 8 p.m. ET Thursday on TNT.