It was a must-win situation for the Memphis Grizzlies, and they played like their season was on the line Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After Memphis had put together a masterful four quarters, a few miraculous shots from Oklahoma City sent the game into overtime. But Memphis put the clamps on in the extra interval, winning Game 2, 111-105, to send the series back to Memphis tied at one apiece.
Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 19 points and 12 assists as teammate Zach Randolph tallied 25 points and six rebounds. As for the other big man inside, Marc Gasol fouled out late in the game, but not before putting up 16 points, seven assists and seven rebounds
Randolph talked about the Grizzlies' game plan heading into the second game of the series, per Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press (via ABC News).
"We've got to make adjustments to get off to a better start," Randolph said. "We can't exert so much energy trying to come back from 20 points. It's the first game, we've got to stick together. We've been here before, we know what we've got to do and come out and be ready for Monday."
Memphis did just that early on in the second meeting with Oklahoma City, controlling much of the first quarter to silence the crowd.
After getting trounced in the first quarter in the opener, the Grizzlies came out with a defensive intensity that suffocated the Thunder and held them to just 16 points in the opening frame, as NBA on ESPN points out:
The Grizzlies also showed growth from the first contest, implementing a much-improved transition game with Conley orchestrating the fast-paced offense.
ESPN Stats & Info notes the disparity between Game 1 and 2 for Memphis on the break:
In the second quarter, the defense came alive for the Thunder. Ibaka recorded several memorable blocks and shined for OKC as the offense struggled.
The Defensive Player of the Year candidate was just oozing with greatness on that end of the floor, per Royce Young of CBS Sports:
Even with Ibaka making his presence felt on the defensive end, the Thunder went into intermission trailing, 46-43. Oklahoma City quickly responded in the second half, taking the lead midway through, but would still trail by three heading into the fourth quarter.
While Westbrook was able to find his shot throughout the game, the shooting from his superstar teammate wasn't quite as remarkable. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman and ESPN Stats and Info praise Tony Allen for the job he did defensively against arguably the best player in the league this year:
But as was the case during the entire regular season, Durant wouldn't be denied in the fourth quarter. The Durantula put on a show with a three-pointer, a sick spin move and an emphatic dunk that blew the roof off of Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Mayberry described the raucous crowd in the wake of Durant's stuff:
Following the elite offensive performances from Durant and Westbrook in the fourth quarter, Mike Miller hit a huge shot of his own on the other end, as the Grizzlies' official Twitter account points out:
Like two heavyweights trading blows, the Thunder threw yet another haymaker from Durant. The MVP candidate set up in the corner, drew the foul and somehow hit this miraculous shot from behind the arc as he flew out of bounds:
Just how special was the shot from KD? So spectacular that Jimmy Spencer of Fox Sports believes it measures up to some of Michael Jordan's career highlights:
Durant's shot was sensational, but it was an unsung hero who came through as the clock struck zero.
Kendrick Perkins would make sure that his effort paid off with a putback at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, tied up at 99. Perkins' shot fell just as the backboard lit up red, and the crowd went into another frenzy.
The Grizzlies would once again jump out to an early lead thanks to great play from Randolph. But just like in regulation, every time Memphis appeared to have the upper hand, the Thunder would storm right back.
Durant hit yet another three to pull the Thunder within one point, 105-104, with just over a minute remaining, and Thabo Sefolosha came up with a huge defensive stop on a steal against Conley to give the Thunder a chance to take the lead.
During the ensuing possession, Gasol would foul Durant, fouling out of the game. Durant would sink one of two, tying the game at 105 with just 35 seconds remaining.
Allen, the same man who shut down Durant for much of the night, would find Randolph open inside for the easy, go-ahead bucket. Both Courtney Lee and Randolph would then go to the line and knock down their free throws to secure the win for Memphis.
Following a pair of hard-fought battles, the series now moves to Memphis, as they will clash at the FedEx Forum on Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on TNT. That bodes well for the home team, as Memphis has won 14 straight on its turf, per Jeff Caplan of NBA.com:
With superstars for each team playing at their highest level, this could be a knockdown, drag-out fight that goes seven games. Much of the attention will also likely now turn to the point guards for both franchises, as Westbrook and Conley continue to duel for the right to advance.
Nothing was given to OKC, as even the shots to close out regulation were all contested by the Grizzlies. If Memphis can continue the same defensive effort it put forth on Monday night, the Thunder might find it just as difficult to score during Thursday's tilt.
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