Today Michael Heisley died. Heisley bought the Grizzlies in 2001, and owned them until 2012, when he retired from corporate life. Did this year’s Griz want to win one for their longtime owner? Sure they did. Maybe it was enough to push them, down 12 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, to a 22-9 run over eight minutes and change that erased the Thunder lead and put Memphis up for the first time since early in the second quarter. It was 80-75 Memphis when, once again, the Thunder, and this time I mean Reggie Jackson, put together enough of a run to tie it up with half a minute left: for fans of déjà vu, it was, yet again, overtime. With the Thunder up 88-87, Russell Westbrook missed a shot, retrieved it himself, and then had the ball taken away by Mike Conley; Conley burned up half the 30 seconds remaining, could not get the shot to fall, and Jackson snagged the rebound. Courtney Lee duly fouled Jackson, Jackson sank both free throws to make it 90-87, Conley went for the easy two and got it, Mike Miller duly fouled Jackson, Jackson sank both free throws to make it 92-89, and a Conley trey attempt at the horn fell short. It’s now two games each, with two, maybe three, to go.
Oh: “Jackson.” Say that several times. The sixth man clearly was primus inter pares tonight, scoring a career-high 32 points on 11-16 shooting and 8-8 from the line. Which was a good thing, since neither Westbrook nor Kevin Durant was having a good night, each with 15 points after ghastly marksmanship (KD 5-21, Westbrook 6-24). Durant did collect 13 rebounds, one fewer than Serge Ibaka, whose 14 boards and five blocks might seem to overshadow his 12 points. And while Derek Fisher’s shooting was off, he did hit a personal milestone: 244 career playoff games, tied with Robert Horry on the all-time list.
Three double-doubles among the Griz: Marc Gasol had a team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds, Conley finished with 14 points and 10 assists, and perennial pest Tony Allen came off the bench for 14 points and 13 boards. If Memphis did a good job of keeping Durant out of the lane, and they did, the Thunder shut down Zach Randolph pretty well, holding him to 11 points on 5-14. And if the Griz need something to lament, it’s this: 13-23 from the foul line. (Z-Bo accounted for four of those ten bricks.) For fans of plus/minus, no one was plus-er than Beno Udrih, +9 for the 19 minutes he played.
Game 5 will be in Oklahoma City Tuesday; there will now be a Game 6 in Memphis. And oh, just incidentally: when Michael Heisley bought the Grizzlies, they were in Vancouver; at his initial press conference, he vowed to keep them there, which he did — for the rest of that season, anyway. I’ve seen that routine before, too.