These headlines are really getting too long – might be about time to rename the series.
This is the master list from the greatest comeback in Grizzly history (going on quality not quantity). It was a weird one. Zach Randolph posted a 21-21 game, but this post is mostly going to be about O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen with a pinch of Sam Young. It was just like that.
You want a more traditional recap, go here.
As always these are real things that happened in a real game…
Top Five Basketball Moments
5) Tony Allen puts Thunder bigs in foul trouble
In the fourth quarter, the crowd had finally showed up and the Grizzlies were showing signs of life. Tony Allen pushed that momentum with 7:31 left in the game with his trademark hustle and tenacity.
The series started with a steal by Allen, who drove fast to the basket and drew a hard foul. Allen missed his second free-throw, but tracked down a hot potato rebound and drove again. Again Allen missed the layup, but drew a foul and went 1 of 2 from the charity stripe.
The big thing about this, aside from how it showed a continuing change in momentum in which the Grizzlies were the harder working team, was that the two foulers on Allen were Thunder bigs Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. Perkins would eventually foul out in overtime and Ibaka finished with five fouls. Allen propelled them to that fate in about 7 game seconds.
The extra fouls meant the Thunder big men could not play as aggressively underneath as they had in game two and for most of this game. It opened up lanes for Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo drives, and space for Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph late in the fourth and in overtime.
4) Three straight one point possessions somehow take a two-point lead.
Getting only one of two free throws plagued the Grizz in the fourth quarter, but their fourth quarter defense was so stout, that the team was able to tie the game and take a two-point advantage with less than a minute left on three straight one-point possessions.
It went pretty much the same way for each. The Thunder set up on offense and turned the ball over. The Grizzlies ran out on a fast break and were fouled while attempting the layup. The foulee would make only one free throw. This happened three times in a row because in the fourth quarter the Grizzlies became the great wall, and the Thunder the Mongolians.
3) O.J Mayo’s hustle
“Juice” kept the Grizzlies in this game. Lost in this story of the Grizzlies amazing comeback is how terrible the team played in order to dig themselves into a 16-point hole at the start of the fourth.
If not for Mayo, the hole could have been 25. Mayo sparked the team in the first quarter with eight points in four minutes, propelling the Grizzlies to a 22-20 lead in the period. Later in the game he made crucial threes during the Grizzlies’ fourth quarter run.
Even more impressively, Mayo defended the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, one of the league’s elite scorers, and shut him down. Westbrook only managed two points in the closing minutes. Lionel Hollins said he made the switch to allow Conley to get some rest on defense, and Mayo’s performance allowed that switch to stay and benefit the Grizz.
2) Going Small
If not for the chaos of the number one selection here, this would have to be it. This changed the game.
Coming out in the fourth quarter, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins sat his two bigs, the heart of his team’s offense, and went with a small lineup of Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Shane Battier, Darrell Arthur and Sam Young.
The move was different. The Grizzlies are a big team, they outmuscle their competition with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Problem was, Gasol and Randolph were struggling underneath and getting themselves out muscled. Early in the game Hollins countered with Hadaddi, who played admirably in limited action. But it wasn’t the answer.
The Thunder were insanely aggressive underneath, poking at dribbles, pushing and shoving for rebounds, and preventing Gasol or Randolph from getting into any kind of rhythm.
So Hollins tried letting the small guys to run around what had become a cage match under the basket and it worked. The small lineup was able to begin closing the gap on the Thunder while clamping down defensively and wearing down the Thunder bigs.
By the time Gasol and Randolph returned halfway through the fourth quarter, Perkins, Ibaka and Collison had more fouls, less energy, and less moxie. Z-Bo took advantage en route to the 21-21 monster stat game he posted, and the entire quarter set up the Grizzlies’ ability to roll in overtime.
Monster STAT: Once the Grizzlies went small, they outscored the Thunder 40-17 in the final 19 minutes. That’s the fourth quarter and overtime.
1) Sam Young’s ALL CAPS DUNK
No other way to describe it. This was the moment everyone in the arena, who started the game with enthusiasm to match the “whiteout” name of the game’s t-shirt promotion (hint: there wasn’t much) but had, at this point, come back into the contest with some energy as things began to look desperate.
Sam Young took that energy and slammed it right down Daequan Cook and Nick Collison’s throats. Young took a pass from Battier and, after a pump fake, found himself looking at a clear lane to the basket from 18 feet out. Young drove for the huge jam that brought the Grizzlies within 7 with 9:20 left. At this point the crowd, and the Grizzlies, believed again.
Top Five “You had to be there” Moments
5) Penny Hardaway wins tater tots for everyone
Pretty self-explanatory here. Three-point shooting contest, one made three from someone in attendance in 30 seconds wins tots for everyone. Crowd gets to pick who the shooter is, Penny Hardaway happens to be one of the choices. He makes the second bucket and everything is rainbows, because Memphis loves Penny.
4) Fun with signs, disasters
This may have been the weakest sign night of the playoffs, but that says more for the quality of the previous nights than lack of effort in this one.
Some highlights included a “Marc > Pau” sign, and several signs making variations on the “we’ve survived a damn flood, what’s a little thunder” joke.
3) #“REFS U SUC!”
Considering the free throw differential (44 attempts for Memphis, 23 for OKC), this seems an unlikely chant. But it happened, and in a big way. After a third traveling no-call on OKC (it’s not nice to complain about this stuff, but all three were blatant) that was followed by a technical foul called on Zach Randolph late in the third quarter, the crowd, which had started to flirt with the idea of again being a factor in these playoffs, started the loud, unlikely chant.
“REFS YOU SUCK! REFS YOU SUCK!” Had to be coming from every person in The Grindhouse based on the volume.
The crowd would not go away after that, although they had not yet reached their apex. For those moments see: dunk, Sam Young and Buzzer, final.
2) “Let’s Go Grizzlies!”
Not nearly as spontaneous or unexpected for most games, but somewhat for this one after three quarters of antiseptic from those in attendance. These chants went on so long and so enthusiastically that the unison began to break down from the echo. The chant continued like a round. So row, row row your boat, except with Grizz fever.
1) Growl Towel display
First, the whiteout kind of sucked. It sucked in Miami this year and last year and it sucked in Memphis on Saturday. It’s stupid. It looks stupid. in person and on television. It has a stupid name. There is nothing cool about it. Stop with the passing out of one color t-shirts. It’s garbage. Motion is lost in the sea of a single color.
Growl Towels on the other hand, highlight both a team color and the motion and enthusiasm of the crowd. They are AWESOME. Normally the proper display method of the growl towel is an elbow-based circular motion that whips the towel like a helicopter above the head of the fan.
But not late in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game. Especially during those three consecutive one-point possessions, the proper growl towel display was a straight hang, slightly above head, with the words “Believe Memphis” staring down on the audacious visiting team and pledging staunch support for the man at the line and the blue-collar team on the floor.
It was movie stuff. Couldn’t have been scripted better.
Top Five Quotes:
5) Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins
“I had preached to my guys all year long that it’s not over until there’s zero on the clock. We were dead in the water, and we needed to do something to get some energy. WE went small. You’re just trying.”
4) Grizzlies guard Sam Young
“It doesn’t always work the way you plan it, but a W is a W. I think that we played our best and when the time came everyone dug deep and we clawed this one out.”
3) Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo
“It’s like coach told us, tonight we needed the perimeter to step up big and help out the bigs. We’ve definitely got one of the best front lines in the NBA, that’s the bread and butter of our team, but we’re a team, and we all have to contribute.”
2) Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph on his “sulking” which was heavily talked about on the ESPN broadcast:
“Yeah I was ticked off. I was mad at myself. But I don’t let it carry over. I might get mad Monday you never know, I’m always getting mad at myself. Doesn’t mean anything except that I got to figure out something better to do.”
1) Grizzlies guard Tony Allen on the team going small:
“That was coach of the year type stuff. [Hollins] is a genius for that.”
Top Five Tweets
WHAT the hell? Now announcers are saying Randolph “threw Ibaka to ground.” Replay obv shows him turn ankle and fall in to Zbo. HACKs
hollins was protesting to Mauer b/c he didn’t realize Mauer called a charge. Then attempted to high-5 him when informed of call.
The Grindhouse crowd sings “Whoomp There It Is” much better than they do the National Anthem.
Note: the crowd was invited to sing the National Anthem along with a Navy band to start the game. Thankfully, Grizzlies PA announcer Rick Trotter will take over singing the anthem on Monday.
Instead of waving the towels down the stretch, fans have been holding them up in defiance, showing “BELIEVE” logo. Cool.
Top Five Photos
Still hungry for more from the Grizzlies’ payoff run? Check out the game one recap, or from the Spurs’ series: Top Five of Game 6 the Top Five Everything of Game Four, our Game Four recap, the Top Five Everything of Game Three, our Game Three recap, our take on the game one win, and for some further back nostalgia, our Top 6 Beards of the Playoff Run.
Photos by Chase Gustafson.