Thursday, May 16, 2013

Game 5: Griz 88, Thunder 84 — Western Conference Finals Bound

Posted By on Thu, May 16, 2013 at 12:18 AM

Even without their all-NBA point guard and with star Kevin Durant smothered to the tune of 5-21 shooting and seven turnovers, it took three daggers to finally eliminate the Oklahoma City Thunder on their home floor.

When the Thunder had whittled a double-digit deficit down to five points with a minute-and-a-half to play, Tony Allen got behind the defense in transition, finished with contact and again from the line to give the Grizzlies a seemingly solid 8-point lead with 1:26 to play.

But the Thunder kept coming and the Grizzlies defense suffered some unusual breakdowns and the lead was cut in half before a high-arcing 19-footer from Marc Gasol gave the Grizzlies a six-point lead with only 27 seconds to play.

But still the Thunder kept coming. Abetted by three missed free throws from Zach Randolph, the Thunder managed to get back to within two points with the ball and 10 seconds to play.

That's when Tony Allen finally ended it, recovering to harass Durant's jumper from behind then somehow darting ahead of him and over everyone else for a defensive rebound, followed by two made free throws and a win secured.

For an agonizing little while, the phrase "Tony Allen T-Shirt" could have come to mean something very different in Memphis. More than midway through the third quarter, the Thunder were down by double digits and wobbling. But Allen, on the Grizzlies bench, accidentally dropped a practice T-shirt on the floor in front of Thunder guard Derek Fisher as he was launching a missed three-pointer. The basket was counted and Allen was hit with a tech, yielding a four-point play that brought the Thunder back to within single digits and helping spur a run that made it a two-point game entering the fourth quarter. But Allen's two big plays in the final minutes kept this ignominious moment from being more than a mere footnote.

In many ways, though, this was a typical Grizzlies performance. The team didn't shoot well (37%), but they clamped down defensively (holding the Thunder to 37% as well, including 6-25 from three), took care of the ball (only 10 turnovers), and rode their bigs.

Zach Randolph, other than his late missed free throws, dominated offensively and on the boards, with 28 points (8-17 shooting, 12-16 from the line) and 14 rebounds, both game highs. Gasol's stat line was ordinary (10/7), but until a couple of late lay-ups yielded after stepping up to halt an attacking perimeter player, his defense was sublime, with his combined six blocks and steals only hinting at his dominance on that end.

Now, the Grizzlies get to come home and get a little rest. The earliest they would play again would be Sunday in San Antonio, if the Spurs win Thursday night at Golden State. If the Warriors force a Game 7 in that series, then the Grizzlies will begin their franchise-first conference finals on Tuesday, with location and opponent to be determined on Sunday.

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