The Memphis Grizzlies turned Saturday's Game 4 into another battle on Beale Street in a must-win for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Grizz built a five-point lead with a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, but the Thunder forced overtime for a third straight game, and Reggie Jackson played the hero OKC's 92-89 victory that knotted the series at 2-2.
Jackson led all scorers and set a career-high with 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the field. Incredibly, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for only 30 points on an atrocious 11-of-45 clip, but OKC still won the game on the strength of Jackson's heroics. Serge Ibaka recorded a double-double, and his five blocks seemed more like 15.
Both teams shot 37 percent as the defenses grappled for control. Marc Gasol put down 23 for Memphis, but he made only one field goal over the final 23 minutes of the game. Mike Conley scored 14 points and dished 10 assists. Zach Randolph scored 11 points, but was benched in the fourth quarter for his persistent shooting struggles.
Despite just 10 first-half points and nine turnovers for Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder held a 42-35 halftime lead by limiting Memphis to 33 percent shooting.
OKC had a 10-2 run late in the third quarter and looked to be in control, but the Grizz stormed back when it mattered most with a 20-6 run late into the fourth. OKC scored only 11 points in the first 11 minutes of the fourth, then Reggie Jackson scored five unanswered to knot the game at 80 apiece.
It was only the second series in NBA playoff history to see three overtime contests in a row and the first since 2009, according to the ESPN telecast. The Thunder finally prevailed in OT and averted a gloomy 3-1 series deficit.
Player grades start at a C+ for a decent overall performance. That increases or decreases based on the quality of each player's contributions, with extra credit for huge stats or clutch performance. (We'll put role players on the grading curve.) Instead of gold stars and frowny faces, here are grades for every player.
Key Thunder Grades
Kevin Durant, Small Forward
Kevin Durant was held to three first-half points, the lowest halftime total in his playoff career. Tony Allen continued to play fearless defense against the four-time scoring champion, and Tayshaun Prince joined in on the grit-and-grind.
Durant finished with 15 points on 21 shots and five turnovers. He also tallied 13 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks, but his shooting was absolutely dreadful.
Praise is due to the Grizzlies, but in a game OKC could not afford to lose, the likely regular-season MVP's ineffectiveness nearly sent the Thunder down a three-games-to-one chasm.
Russell Westbrook, Point Guard
Westbrook had a few nice dimes in the first half, but he was still bottled up for just seven points. Even though Mike Conley couldn't find the hoop if he had a map, his defense was not in a slump in the early going.
Unlike Conley, Westbrook never got it going. He notched 15 points on 24 shots. Despite missing a triple-double by only one rebound and three assists, he nearly recorded an ignominious quadruple-double thanks to seven turnovers, one-third of his team's total.
Serge Ibaka, Power Forward
Serge Ibaka was a menace in multiple facets with 12 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. Ibaka paced OKC in the first half by getting good looks with the defense focusing on Durant and Westbrook.
In the second half, there were points when Ibaka defended the rim with the impenetrability of an elite NHL netminder.
Reggie Jackson, Point Guard
In the first three games of the series, Reggie Jackson attempted 19 shots and made only three. It seems he was saving all his scoring for Game 4. Jackson went off for 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting and even grabbed nine rebounds!
Jackson's five points in the final minute of regulation may have saved OKC's season. He put down a much-needed three-pointer to make it a one-possession game, then a Memphis turnover became his game-tying floater.
However, following a timely Ibaka block at the end of the fourth, Jackson heaved the ball for a desperation 80-foot trey despite four full seconds showing on the clock. He missed and was clearly upset; ESPN cameras showed Derek Fisher consoling him.
He made amends in admirable fashion by dropping eight points in the overtime and evening the series in advance of Game 5 back at home.
ESPN sideline reporter J.A. Adande asked Jackson directly after the game what got him back on track. Aside from giving glory to God, an out-of-breath Jackson laid out the key to his success: "Everybody's trying to key on Russ and KD. They did a good job of just attacking, finding me off the wing. I was just trying to attack the basket. My bigs did a great job of screening."
It's that simple!
Thabo Sefolosha, Shooting Guard
Thabo Sefolosha doesn't do a heck of a lot on offense, and that is why he yielded minutes to the hot-handed Reggie Jackson. Thabo managed three points in just shy of 15 minutes.
Kendrick Perkins, Center
Kendrick Perkins hacked his way to three first-half fouls, which is not a good idea against Memphis' potent frontcourt. He still saw 25 minutes on the floor, but that's because all the OKC big men racked up fouls in bunches. Perkins tallied four points and six rebounds, four offensive.
Rest of Bench
Caron Butler had connected on one lonely shot over the last two games through nine attempts, but he canned a couple of first-half treys in Game 4. That was it though.
Nick Collison was another player to come off the bench and pick up a handful of fouls in a few minutes, but he actually hit a three-pointer somehow. Steven Adams outdid everyone with three personals in five minutes.
Derek Fisher tied Robert Horry’s record for the most career playoff games. In 11 minutes, he scored two points on a pair of free throws.
Key Grizzlies Grades
Marc Gasol, Center
There were times during the game when it seemed like Marc Gasol was the only guy in a Grizzlies uniform with the ability to score. He reached 20 points before any teammate tallied 10, and no one joined him in double figures until the fourth quarter.
However, Gasol was held down in the second half and found next to nothing after the midway point of the third quarter. He ended up a team-high 23 on 10-of-21 shooting, 11 boards, four assists and two blocks.
Zach Randolph, Power Forward
Randolph could not find the cup in Game 3 and missed 15 shots on 20 attempts. He was slightly more proficient from the field on Saturday, but he brought his struggles to the charity stripe, missing four of his first five free throws.
Randolph ended with 11 points, seven boards and three steals.
Memphis' leading scorer spent a large portion of crunch time on the bench after missing eight of his first 12 shots. He scored in overtime, but it was too little and too late from Z-Bo. A decent evening from him could have put the Grizz up by two games.
Mike Conley, Point Guard
Mike Conley did not record a point until only 2:01 remained in the first half, but he brought renewed tenacity down the stretch. One key play came on his third steal of the game when he jumped on a Reggie Jackson lost ball and called a quick timeout, giving Memphis the ball with a three-point lead and 2:08 remaining.
Despite a double-double of points and assists, Conley needed 16 shots to get his 14 points, which is not befitting of a point guard. With Randolph struggling, Conley needed to pick up the slack. He was not quite up to that task.
Courtney Lee, Shooting Guard
Courtney Lee got his shot blocked three times and was a contributor to the team's poor shooting performance. He was a no-show down the stretch and finished with nine points thanks only to a couple of triples.
Tayshaun Prince, Small Forward
Tayshaun Prince did not play many minutes despite starting, but he brought his long-armed defense to the fore. What he now lacks in quickness, he slightly compensates for in savvy. Nevertheless, his legs can't withstand the rigors of big playoff minutes, and he played only 17. He scored one field goal.
Tony Allen, Shooting Guard
Not only did Tony Allen play a slew of lockdown defense, he also pulled off one of the more beautiful examples of cherry-picking this season. He crumpled to the ground seemingly suffering from a severe lower-body injury, as the NHL would put it. Then he popped up to receive the pass in transition and dunked it. One would assume that every OKC fan was hoping he was really injured.
Tony Allen scored 14 and hauled in 13 rebounds, 10 of which came on the offensive glass. The game saw a total of 38 offensive boards.
Allen blanketed Durant repeatedly and clearly had the star frustrated. He even brought his game on the offensive end, and his 6-of-14 shooting is admirable on a team that hit only 37 percent on the night.
Rest of Bench
Much to the chagrin of New York Knicks fans everywhere, discarded guard Beno Udrih has been surprisingly useful in the playoffs for Memphis. He scored six points in Game 4, but his gut-wrenchingly bad pass with 40 seconds left led directly to the game-tying basket by Jackson.
In the two games at home, Mike Miller proved incapable of hitting the ocean from a dinghy. Until the final five minutes of Game 4, he had missed eight straight shots and no points on his home court in the series. Then he buried a three-pointer with 4:40 to go that cut the deficit to one. Less than a minute later, the Grizz claimed the lead.
Miller again gave the Grizzlies the lead in OT, but an OKC procession to the foul line eked out the victory.
Ed Davis did some things in very limited time by notching two points and four rebounds in five minutes.
The series heads back to Oklahoma City for Game 5 on NBA TV Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. Game 6 is on Thursday back in Memphis.
The Thunder went 34-7 at home during the regular season, tied for the best mark in the West, and two of their three wins in the season series came at home. Memphis seems to have let a 3-1 advantage slip away, but it came away from Game 2 with a road win.
After holding OKC to 80 points in regulation, it's very possible that the Grizzlies defense could devour this series, but Durant and Westbrook won't be plagued by the same futility from Game 4 on their home court.