Well, that was a much different outcome than the last one. In what was certain to be yet another Instant Classic playoff game between these two teams, the Grizzlies stole one in Oklahoma City last night, swinging home court advantage in the series back to Memphis and heading home for Thursday's Game 3 with the series tied 1-1. Thanks to a (relatively rare) Kendrick Perkins putback at the buzzer of regulation, they even needed extra time to do it.
First things first, though: Dave Joerger started Tayshaun Prince again in Game 2, but I can't beat him up for it too much, because his clever use of lineups was a big reason the Grizzlies came up winners last night. Led by Beno Udrih, who stepped up from "Nick Calathes' backup" to "Oh hey this guy has two championship rings" last night with 14 points on 8 shots in 14 minutes of play, the Griz bench—a key to the team's success for much of the season, but a non-factor in Game 1—came up big, with Joerger essentially using a 9-man rotation of the Usual Suspects as starters, Tony Allen, Mike Miller, Udrih, and Ed Davis. (Kosta Koufos came in at the very end of OT when Marc Gasol fouled out, but didn't play enough to be a factor in the game's outcome).
What got the Grizzlies out ahead, and what gave them a big enough lead that Kevin Durant's 4th-quarter ridiculousness only tied the game instead of winning it for the Thunder, was the use of a super-small-ball lineup featuring Mike Miller as the power forward. The small lineup of guards running all over the place stretched the OKC defense in such a way that the floor finally opened up for the Grizzlies' offense in a way it hadn't yet in the series.
I'm not sure what it is about these two teams that makes almost every game a close one, but it makes for great playoff basketball. The Clippers may be the Grizzlies' rivals in a WWE sense—they're the heel at the Grindhouse, filling the whole room with bad vibes and getting chippy enough for Z-Bo to start choke-slamming folks—but the Griz/Thunder matchups (this is their third playoff series against each other in four years, remember) make for better basketball. The matchup of styles, coupled with Tony Allen's unmatched ability to actually defend Kevin Durant (to the extent possible) brings out the best in both teams, but last night it brought out more "best" in the Grizzlies than it did in the Thunder, and thankfully we've now got a real series on our hands, coming back to Memphis for what promise to be two raucous home playoff games, neither of which can possibly be an elimination game!
Beno Udrih has been ecstatic about being on this Grizzlies roster since he set foot in the locker room, becoming a fan favorite on Twitter even though he seemed destined to ride the pine behind Nick Calathes waiting to step in the moment he was needed, just happy to be on a winning team with a good locker room (read: not the Knicks). When Calathes' suspension was announced, less than 24 hours before Game 1, the worry became that no matter how good Udrih is, he simply hadn't played enough minutes to learn the offense well enough to step in at backup point and fill Calathes' shoes.
But last night, he got hot, and while the Griz still miss Calathes' length and his court vision, Udrih proved that he's still got what it takes to contribute on a playoff team, dropping 14 points in 14 minutes and contributing to a big Griz run fueled by the bench.
More of that, please. Bring on Game 3. Maybe Beno will tweet from some other BBQ place on "Elvis Presley Avenue" in the interim.