May 8, 2013
Grizzlies tie series with Thunder
By Michael Kinney, The Sports Xchange
OKLAHOMA CITY — Memphis fans know just how good Mike Conley has become. They have watched the point guard develop over time with the Grizzlies.
But Conley is using the postseason as a showcase to display for the rest of the world just what he can do on a basketball court.
With his Grizz in need of a victory, Conley scored six of his 26 points in the final two minutes as Memphis overcame Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder 99-93 Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I’ve been saying for a long time he is up and coming,” Memphis guard Tony Allen said. “Mike Conley is now one of the top five point guards in the league, whether anybody likes it or not. I know a lot of people have their favorites and who they think should be, but he’s in that conversation now.”
Conley added 10 rebounds and nine assists to his stellar night.
“I let my guy go one assist shy of a triple-double,” Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson said. “You don’t have to look too far (to find) why we lost tonight.”
Durant had 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for Oklahoma City. But it wasn’t enough to prevent the Grizzlies from tying the Western Conference semifinal series at 1-1. Game 3 is Saturday in Memphis.
“Of course everyone’s going to panic because we lost the game, but that’s not what we’re going to do here,” Durant said. “We feel confident. Can’t be upset with ourselves. I’ll always stay positive. It’s a grind-out series.”
That is exactly what the Grizzlies did down the stretch in Game 2.
Memphis led 86-85 with 3:25 left in the fourth quarter when Durant hit a bank shot over Jerryd Bayless and was fouled in the process. The ensuing free throw put the Thunder up by two.
Marc Gasol responded with a 3-point play that fouled Nick Collison out of the game. Kendrick Perkins knocked in a pair of free throws and Oklahoma City went back on top.
Conley quickly answered with a 3-pointer at the top of the key that came off another offensive rebound. That put the Grizz ahead 92-90 with 1:58 left.
After Durant missed a 3-pointer, Conley hit another clutch shot and gave Memphis a four-point advantage with 1:04 on the clock. The Thunder were unable to score on the other end and Conley hit 1-of-2 at the line.
Memphis did everything possible to make sure Durant wasn’t the one who was going to beat them. When he touched the ball, he was swarmed by a trio of Grizzlies. He was unable to get off a clean shot and the Grizzlies held on for the win.
“That’s just how our team has been,” Conley said. “Going against a team like Oklahoma City in their place, they are going to make a lot of runs. They have a lot of guys that can score and we just have to stay poised through all that.”
Gasol scored 24 points while Zach Randolph scored 15 on 6-for-12 shooting. But it was the Grizzlies’ dominance on the offensive glass that proved to be the real difference maker. They racked up 16. Several came in crucial moments in the fourth quarter to keep the Thunder from making a run.
“Just crashed the boards,” Randolph said. “Just crashed them and being aggressive. That is our team. Inside out, offensive rebound and playing our game. It was a gritty and grimy game tonight.”
Derek Fisher came off the bench for the Thunder to post 19 points. Serge Ibaka scored 11 points and Reggie Jackson added 10.
After a subpar Game 1, Gasol started off Game 2 looking to make an imprint from the start. He posted eight quick points and dealt out a couple of nifty passes that led to scores.
Oklahoma City didn’t shoot particularly well from the field, but the Thunder made a living at the free throw line. That allowed them to keep the game close in the first quarter as Memphis held a 23-21 advantage.
The second quarter belonged to Fisher. The veteran guard came off the bench and started knocking down 3-pointers and free throws to put the Thunder up 45-40 with 4:30 remaining in the half.
Memphis went back to attacking the boards. After having a total of four offensive rebounds in the series opener, the Grizzlies collected 10 in the first half Tuesday. That included four on one trip when they outhustled the Thunder for every rebound and loose ball.
The Grizzlies took advantage of 10 Thunder turnovers and led 54-51 at halftime.
Memphis continued to get balance scoring in the third quarter. After Oklahoma City put the clamps on Gasol, Randolph and Conley got into the action and helped the Grizz go ahead by seven.
However, in the final two minutes of the period, Durant went on a quick scoring binge. It included a 3-pointer, a tomahawk dunk and foul down the middle of the lane and two free throws as time expired.
However, unlike in Game 1, Durant wasn’t able to save the day this time around.
“I can carry as much as Coach needs me to carry,” Durant said. “I made those shots last game. I missed them this game. I just have to continue to keep taking them. I’m going to continue to be aggressive. I have confidence in myself.”
NOTES: Fisher was fined $5,000 for violating the league’s anti-flopping policy. The infraction took place during the second quarter of Game 5 against Houston when Rockets center Omer Asik was called for an offensive foul after running into Fisher and Kevin Martin. Both fell to the ground at the same time, but only Fisher was fined. Fisher is the second player to be fined this postseason. Indiana’s Jeff Pendergraph was fined Sunday. In the playoffs, the NBA is fining players $5,000 for their first flopping offense, $10,000 for the second offense, $15,000 for the third flop and $30,000 the fourth time. ... Memphis coach Lionel Hollins was asked if it’s tough to move forward when teams have a game seemingly in hand but lose in the end, as happened to the Golden State Warriors on Monday. “It happens all year long,” Hollins said. “It happens to everybody. It’s all the same. It’s one loss. More is made out of it than should be.”