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May 14, 2013

NBA PLAYOFFS: Grizzlies top Thunder in OT

MEMPHIS — Lionel Hollins demands a certain standard from his Memphis Grizzlies that he didn't get in the first half against Oklahoma City.

Well, they came through after halftime, and now the Grizzlies are just a win away from this franchise's first Western Conference final.

Mike Conley scored 24 points, while Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol each had a double-double as the Grizzlies rallied from a 17-point deficit in beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-97 in overtime Monday night.

"They were able to overcome everything, and we just kept battling until we got a win,'' Hollins said. "I'm glad it didn't go into three overtimes, but I'm glad to get the win.''

These teams played three overtimes in Game 4 in 2011 in the Western semifinals, a game in which the Thunder rallied from a first-half deficit and won. Oklahoma City eventually won that series in seven games.

This time around, the Thunder had the 17-point advantage with the Grizzlies rallying back to grab a 3-1 series lead. The comeback came after Hollins spoke to them at halftime and even shut off the film early.

"We knew he was upset, and the guys responded to that,'' Grizzlies guard Tony Allen said.

Allen's driving layup opened overtime and put the Grizzlies ahead to stay. The win pushed the defending Western Conference champions to the edge of elimination. Game 5 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

"It's not over yet, and we understand that,'' Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "It's the first to four. They're in a good position, but our challenge is not impossible. It's something that we can do. We just have to focus one possession, one game at a time. Hopefully, we can do that and come back here Friday night. There's a barbeque festival right?''

Memphis has yet to lose on its home court this postseason and now is 19-1 here since Feb. 8. The Grizzlies won their third straight overall and seventh in eight games to grab a 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven series with a win that left Hollins very impressed with the comeback.

"We are a team that just plays hard and doesn't quit,'' Hollins said. "We scratch. We claw. They said grit and grind. I don't know what the heck that means, but we go out and we just battle. We compete. We're not the most talented team that's in the playoffs when we started out. We're not the most talented team that's left in the playoffs. But we go and compete.''

The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 9-3 in overtime as Oklahoma City went 1 of 8 from the floor.

Kevin Durant scored 27 points. But the man leading the league this postseason in scoring missed all five of his shots in the extra period, including a layup in the final seconds. Durant went 2 of 13 in the fourth quarter and overtime and had only five points. He did score on a driving layup that forced overtime.

The All-Star played 48 minutes and was just short on his shots as the game wore on. Asked why he drove for the tying layup in regulation instead of a 3 to win, Durant said he saw a wide-open lane.

"I just went to get as close as I could and try to send it to overtime, which we did,'' Durant said. "They made more plays than us in overtime, and they got the win.''

Durant got the help from his teammates he needed. Kevin Martin scored 18 points, Serge Ibaka had his best game of the series with 17 points and 14 rebounds, and Reggie Jackson had 15. Nick Collison even added 10. Even with a break early in the second quarter, Durant played 48 minutes, 19 seconds.

Not that Durant will acknowledge he's tired.

"Well, it is midnight, and my bedtime is usually around 12 o'clock or so,'' Durant said. "I'm a little sleepy because it's past my bedtime. But other than that, I'm good.''

Randolph had 23 and 12, while Gasol had 23 and 11 along with six blocks on the day the Defensive Player of Year was named to the NBA's second All-Defensive team along with Conley, who had four steals. Allen, who finished with 10 points, had three steals on the day he edged LeBron James for most points for the NBA's All-Defensive team.

The Grizzlies had a chance to close out the win in regulation, except Ibaka blocked a shot by Randolph just before the buzzer in regulation.

"Two years ago when we went three overtimes and we weren't feeling like this two years ago, so it feels good,'' Randolph said. "But we're focused, and we know what we got to do Wednesday. Come out and play. They're going to come out and play hard. It's not over yet.''

Allen scored to open overtime, then Randolph rebounded a miss by Gasol and scored on a putback. Derek Fisher, who missed his first four shots, finally hit a 3-pointer. But the 38-year-old veteran also had his inbound pass stolen by Allen with 21.1 seconds left and Memphis up 100-97.

"We missed the opportunity to win,'' Ibaka said. "This is a big loss, and I am not too happy about it. We have to stay focused.''

The Thunder spent most of the past two days talking about the need to make shots. They did just that to open the game, hitting three of their first five in scoring the first seven points and led 29-18 at the end of the first quarter for their biggest lead in this series.

Ibaka found his shooting stroke after struggling through this series, and had nine points in the first 12 minutes, including a 3-pointer, with seven rebounds.

Oklahoma City had its biggest lead on a corner 3 by Durant that gave Oklahoma City a 46-29 lead with 4:26 left.

Memphis showed signs of life trimming the Thunder's lead to 56-48 at halftime. Oklahoma City thought it had a double-digit lead when Ibaka beat the buzzer with a putback off a missed Durant 3. But officials reviewed the play and waved the bucket off.

Tayshaun Prince said the Grizzlies talked at halftime in the locker room, happy to get it under 10. The pep talk was simple.

"We just told ourselves: `Look, we can't play no worse than we did in that first half,''' Prince said.

 

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