Memphis, at the moment, is beset by rising waters, no thanks to the Mississippi River, which has been having a bit of a problem keeping within its banks lately. On the other hand, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in town for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals, found themselves thirsty for points in the fourth quarter: in 11:56, they scored all of ten points on 4-18 shooting that’s 22.2 percent, kids as what had once been a double-digit lead turned into a tie at 86-all. Zack Randolph got the last shot, but he didn’t get it to go, and the game went into overtime.
And did OKC recover from this dearth of scoring? They did not. Overtime was half gone before their first bucket by Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins having just fouled out and they’d make only two more in the game. Memphis 101, OKC 93, and the Griz are up 2-1. Not what anyone expected seventeen minutes before, with the Thunder up by thirteen.
So what happened in that fourth quarter? Failure to make shots, obviously, though the Grizzlies’ defense deserves much of the credit for that; Tony Allen stuck to Kevin Durant like one of those dollar-store mouse traps. Perhaps more important, Memphis drew fouls all over the place: they put up 44 free throws and made thirty. Not a great percentage, but the Thunder, which specializes in drawing fouls, went 21-23: great percentage, but nine fewer points. Neither team shot particularly well, though OKC was a hair worse: 36.6 percent. (Only one player of the twenty who played hit more than 50 percent: Memphis guard Mike Conley, who went 8-15.) The Griz won the battle of the boards, 55-53.
Weirdly, the Forum was littered with double-doubles. Russell Westbrook had 23 points and 12 assists before fouling out; Durant managed 22 points and 12 rebounds; but you want spectacular, you go to Z-Bo, who had 21 points and 21 boards.
And let’s not characterize the Grizzlies as some sort of Cinderella team. Those aren’t glass slippers they’re using to stomp the opposition. If they win this series, I expect them to dispose handily of the Mavericks and go right into the Finals.