The Grizzlies obviously worked on two concepts between Game 1 and tonight: hit the damn free throws already — they knocked down all of their first twelve — and keep the ball as long as possible. And by “as long as possible,” I’m talking 21-23 seconds into the shot clock. This lugubrious pace is Memphis’ signature style, and the Thunder typically has a great deal of trouble dealing with it. They certainly did tonight, trailing most of the way, finally squeezing out a one-point lead with 1:14 left when Zach Randolph, pestered by Kendrick Perkins, gave up the ball to Thabo Sefolosha, and Kevin Durant was waiting at the door to Dunk City. Mike Miller, brought in for long-ball marksmanship, replanted a Mike Conley miss from 24 feet, burning, yes, 21 seconds. The next two Thunder possessions came up empty, Conley hit three of four free throws, and the crowd nodded off. Then Durant knocked down a trey, accompanied by a body bump by Marc Gasol, and the subsequent foul shot made it 98-97 Griz with 13.8 left. Next Memphis possession, Conley hit one of two free throws; Russell Westbrook missed a trey, Perkins slapped it back in at the horn, and suddenly there was overtime.
Apparently that was all the Department of Miracles had available: the Griz struck first, and also second, in overtime. Perkins, attempting to block a Randolph shot, drew his sixth foul; Z-Bo obligingly missed the free throw. With 1:15 left, a Durant trey pulled OKC to within one; a Sefolosha steal gave the ball back to the Thunder, Gasol, guarding Durant, fouled out, and Durant tied it up on the second free throw. The Griz took over from that point, with a Randolph layup, two freebies by Courtney Lee, two more by Randolph, and that was it: Memphis 111, Oklahoma City 105, and the series — like the last three MEM-OKC playoff series — is tied at 1-1.
Griz ball movement was excellent: 30 assists and only nine turnovers. Z-Bo had lots of points (25), not so many rebounds (six), but Memphis wasn’t hurting for boards, what with Tony Allen collecting 8, Gasol and Conley seven each. (Conley also had 12 assists to go with his 19 points. Why does this man get so little respect as a point guard?) Tayshaun Prince, not ill tonight, was still not a factor; Beno Udrih did most of the bench scoring, with 14.
On the Thunder side, you figure Durant with 36, Westbrook with 29, Ibaka with 15 — and then it rapidly tails off. Shooting 39 percent will do that to you. Both Durant and Ibaka snared 11 rebounds; Serge blocked five shots and bothered a few others. None of the reserves played much, and only Derek Fisher made as many as two shots.
Game 3 is in Memphis Thursday night. Expect things to be boisterous.