After the first quarter, it was Memphis 16, Oklahoma City 14. Just what you might have expected: a slow grind with not a whole lot of offense, especially from the Thunder, who missed ten consecutive shots. And then things were inverted in the second, OKC outscoring the Grizzlies 33-30 to take a one-point lead at the half. Then the Thunder went cold in the third, and the Griz went up nine after three; OKC forged several ties, but never actually regained the lead until 11.1, when a Derek Fisher steal followed by a Kevin Durant pullup put the Thunder up 91-90. At the 3.5 mark, Marc Gasol, passed the ball to Mike Conley at halfcourt, but the momentum carried him out of bounds, and the Thunder got the ball back. Reggie Jackson wound up with the inbound and the inevitable immediate foul; Jackson calmly dropped both freebies, then fouled Quincy Pondexter. Unfortunately, he fouled him on a trey attempt. Pondexter missed the first, got the second, and deliberately missed the third; Durant got a hand on it, Fisher dribbled it away, and that was the game: OKC 93, Memphis 91.
The Tall Trees of Memphis stood as tall as ever, Gasol with 20 points, Zach Randolph with 18, and each with ten rebounds. Tayshaun Prince contributed extra defense. Still, the Griz could not muster any more than four second-chance points, and Tony Allen, normally a major pest, turned out to be a non-factor, playing barely 20 minutes and scoring 3. Pondexter, who hit three treys in the third, and Jerryd Bayless took up as much of the slack as they could.
In the post-Westbrook era, the big lines belong to Durant and Whoever Will. Today Whoever was Kevin Martin, who had another 25-pointer, including three from long distance. (Durant, of course, had the best line in the house: 35 points, 15 boards, six assists and two steals.) Those who argued against Fisher’s alleged “intangibles” getting him undeserved minutes are keeping discreetly silent: his eight points may seem modest, but Fish’s gift for being in the right place at the right time got him +14, tied with Martin for game-high. Serge Ibaka was pretty good on defense (five rebounds, three blocks), not so hot on offense (1-10, five points).
At some point — say, right after Game 6 against Houston — you could hear cries of “Even if we survive this, how will we ever beat the Grizzlies?” It’s the same way you always beat the Grizzlies, when you can. Second try is Tuesday night.