For a third game in a row, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies needed overtime to decide a winner. For the first time, Oklahoma City prevailed, 92-89, in Memphis to tie the series at 2-2.
Only twice has one postseason series featured three consecutive overtime games, per ESPN Stats & Info:
This is the 2nd series in NBA playoffs history w/ 3 straight OT games. The other was Celtics vs Bulls in 2009 Eastern Conference 1st Round.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 27, 2014
If before the game, you had been told that the two teams would combine to score 181 points, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would shoot a combined 11-of-45, you'd have picked the Grizzlies to win. That kind of low-scoring game is right in their wheelhouse, and the Thunder are surely going to struggle when their best players have such off nights from the floor.
Only twice in 474 games have Durant and Westbrook been this bad in the same game:
Tonight was only the 2nd time in 474 games together (reg season & playoffs) that Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook both shot below 30%.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 27, 2014
To put everything in perspective, Tony Allen (14 points) nearly outscored the star duo (15 points apiece) in an NBA playoff game. That almost happened, and yet the Thunder still won.
Both Allen and Tayshaun Prince did a great job hounding Durant in particular:
Kevin Durant is 1-for-15 shooting in half-court offense tonight -- 0-for-8 vs Tony Allen and 1-for-7 vs Tayshaun Prince.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 27, 2014
The way in which he seemed bereft of ideas late in the game was befuddling:
I mean, just driving straight at Tony Allen isn't a great way to break out of your slump.— netw3rk (@netw3rk) April 27, 2014
As Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin pointed out, though, it was as if the two teams agreed to some sort of role reversal before the game, covering up for Westbrook and Durant's failings:
In the last two games the Griz got great balanced scoring, the Thunder got everything from Durant and Westbrook. Tonight is opposite night.— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) April 27, 2014
After the third, OKC was up 64-52 and the 12-point lead felt much larger given the low nature of the scoring.
Then, the Thunder's offense began to melt down in the fourth quarter. Memphis outscored Oklahoma City 28-16 in the final frame. Mike Prada of SB Nation highlighted the fact that Oklahoma City's offense had no Plan B when Plan A didn't work out:
None of these Thunder plays have second options, but you knew that already.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) April 27, 2014
Durant can’t get open, then stops trying, leaving Westbrook out to dry.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) April 27, 2014
Luckily for OKC, Reggie Jackson stepped up in a big way. He led all scorers with 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting off the bench, adding nine rebounds in a great overall performance by the third-year point guard.
Coincidentally, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks spoke about how little the team's supporting cast had provided during the first three games of the series, per NBA.com:
They’ve been good all year. They’re going to get great opportunities tonight. It’s not because they’re not trying. It’s not because they don’t care. They’ve got to make some shots they normally make. Reggie’s one of the best finishers in the game, and that includes all players. We have to get him more opportunities, and that’s on me, to find him more opportunities. But he’s going to get opportunities tonight to attack and create, not only for himself but for his teammates.
Jackson's 11 made field goals were eight more than he had made during the first three games of the series combined.
Reggie Jackson has made six shots tonight after making just three combined the first three games. Has a team-high 13 points.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 27, 2014
After the game, Brooks praised Jackson's performance.
"Reggie played an outstanding basketball game," he said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "He was able to attack and finish around the rim like he's done all year, and I knew he would bounce back. He's done a great job of coming in and giving us that lift offensively when we needed it as a sixth man."
His only real mistake of the game was his last-second heave at the end of regulation. Jackson channeled his inner Roscoe Smith, throwing up a prayer despite having more time on the clock to get up court.
Memphis' biggest stars fared slightly better than Oklahoma City's. Marc Gasol (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Mike Conley (14 points, 10 assists) both finished with double-doubles, but Zach Randolph shot 5-of-14 for 11 points.
What the Grizzlies really lacked was somebody like Jackson coming from out of nowhere to have a huge game.
That was exacerbated by their continued poor shooting from three-point range. They attempted (1,147) and made (405) the fewest threes in the league in addition to ranking 19th in three-point shooting percentage (.353), according to Basketball-Reference.com.
In the first three games of the series, Memphis shot a combined 10-of-37 from downtown. On Saturday, it managed a paltry 6-of-20.
It wasn't for a lack of opportunities, either. Grizzlies shooters weren't even attempting long-range shots when presented with open looks:
Memphis isn't taking open threes. You're probably not going to hit them but you're defeinitely not going to hit them if you don't take them— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 27, 2014
Foul shooting was also a problem for Memphis. It missed 10 of its 23 attempts from the charity stripe. In such a close game, you can't expect to miss that many gimmes and still expect to win.
The series heads back to Oklahoma City for Game 5. Both teams will get two days off to reflect on Saturday night's game and figure out what went right and what went wrong.
The Grizzlies will need a much better offensive performance if they want to get back in the driver's seat in this series. You do wonder, though, if this was Memphis' best chance to take control of the series.
As a team, the Thunder shot 36.7 percent from the field and turned the ball over 21 times. And yet, they still won. If the Grizzlies can't win at home with that kind of an advantage, do they have much hope for the rest of the series?
Given the unpredictability of the entire postseason so far, don't be surprised if this series has a few more twists and turns left.