Call it the biggest comeback in franchise history. Not by numbers, but by magnitude. Facing a 16-point deficit going into the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 23-10 in the period to force overtime, and started the extra minutes with a 6-0 run that put the Thunder away and the Grizzlies up 2-1 in the series.
For most of the game, the Grizzlies didn’t look like the hardest working team in the NBA. O.J. Mayo, who finished with 18 points off the bench, kept the Grizzlies in the game, but the team and the crowd looked lethargic until late in the third quarter. The bigs were getting outmuscled underneath, and the Grizzlies were getting out hustled.
The amazing fourth quarter run was sparked by a small lineup which countered the Thunder’s physicality with quickness. Tony Allen was able to force fouls on both Thunder bigs in one possession. The added Grizzly speed sparked the run.
The Grizzlies closed and took a two-point lead with three straight one-point possessions that came from 1/2 trips to the charity stripe. Two late free throws by Russell Westbrook kept the game tied with less than a minute. Kevin Durant and Zach Randolph were unable to make attempts to win the game, and it went to overtime.
But by then there was no stopping the Grizzly tide. The crowd wasn’t going away, and neither were the Grizzlies. Zach Randolph had finally gotten rolling thanks to the Thunder bigs being in foul trouble. He finished with 21 points and 21 rebounds and dominated extra time. The Thunder only managed 7 points to the Grizzlies 15 in the final five minutes, extending their late-game breakdown to 18 minutes.
The Grizzlies play next at FedExForum on Monday. They lead the best of seven series 2-1.
Photo by Chase Gustafson.