Okay, remember last week when beating the Clippers in L.A. was easily the most satisfying win of the year? Well, it’s going to have some stiff competition after this one. In a slow, ugly game (the Grizzlies favorite kind!), Memphis emerged victorious against the Thunder, coming out of it with a 90-89 OT win, despite trailing by six with less than two minutes in the fourth quarter. This win was a testament to the resilience of this Grizzlies team, and yet another game that indicates they will be a very tough out in the playoffs.
The hero tonight was Marc Gasol, who tipped in the game winning shot after Zach Randolph initially missed. Gasol had an excellent game, picking up 14 points and 15 rebounds. Meanwhile, Z-Bo really struggled from the field, shooting just 6-23, but he still managed 15 points and 18 boards. The star of the game on offense for Memphis was Mike Conley, who has continued his string of increased offensive production, chipping in 24 points, along with seven rebounds and five assists.
For the Thunder, Kevin Durant was his usual excellent self, putting in 32 points and eight rebounds. Russell Westbrook struggled quite a bit tonight, however, shooting 7-25 from the field, giving us a glimpse of the “bad” Westbrook that Thunder fans desperately hope won’t make an extended appearance in the playoffs. Westbrook’s poor performance was yet another example of a marquee player being flustered by the Grizzlies’ first-rate defense. They weren’t able to shut down Durant, but his sidekick struggled all night, and the Grizzlies knocked the Thunder’s usually excellent offense out of its normal stride.
The Grizzlies bench was just about absent from this game, totaling only 22 combined points, 20 of which came from Jerryd Bayless, who had his second consecutive great game against the Thunder – he was similarly effective in a loss to Oklahoma City on January 31st. Ed Davis was held scoreless in six minutes, while Quincy Pondexter was somehow kept off the board in 15. Luckily, the Grizzlies managed to at least partially return the favor, keeping Derek Fisher from recording a single point, rebound, or assist in 11 minutes of play.
With this win, the Grizzlies have taken the season series against the Thunder by a margin of 2-1. This is certainly an important accomplishment for a team desperately trying to prove they’re one of the big boys. The Grizzlies beat the Thunder twice, and the one loss should come with an asterisk, since it came the day after the Rudy Gay trade, before Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, and Austin Daye could be inserted into the lineup.
With the Clippers defeating the lowly Sixers soundly, the Grizzlies remain tied for the third seed in the West. This race will likely come down to the wire, with each team desperate to avoid playing the red-hot Nuggets in round 1. The Grizzlies look very strong right now, and they certainly aren’t going to back down from that 3-seed without a fight. It will be entertaining to see how these last few weeks play out, but after watching the Grizzlies gut out a huge win against the defending conference champs, I’d be hard-pressed to bet against them now!