The Thunder and Grizzlies are well en route to another terrific playoff series of contrasting styles, each magnificently fun to watch. In Monday's game, they added a new chapter full of thrilling athletic plays and furious comebacks requiring overtime before Memphis eked out the 111-105 win.
Memphis was much sharper in the first quarter of Game 2 than in the game prior, putting the clamps on Oklahoma City's offense while taking advantage of their opportunities in transition. Tony Allen's defense was instrumental in helping hold Kevin Durant to 3-for-8 shooting and just two free throw attempts in the first half. When it comes to individual defensive matchups, the way Allen denies space to Durant is as impeccable as it gets. Their recent playoff battles have been memorable ones.
The Thunder pushed back in the second quarter thanks to some heartening offensive and defensive play from (possible? Probable?) AARP member Derek Fisher and the always frenetically energetic defense of Serge Ibaka, who helped get momentum back on Oklahoma City's side.
The third quarter started the second half with back-to-back jumpers from Ibaka and a three from Durant, chopping down Memphis' lead. Courtney Lee, a big factor in the Grizzlies' first-half success, rolled his ankle and tried to play through it until Dave Joerger inserted Tony Allen back into the rotation.
As the game wore on, the Grizzlies created a lead, albeit slim. You're not going to create a ton of space against a team as athletic and talented as the Thunder, but it developed into as solid a lead you could probably create in this playoff atmosphere. Beno Udrih played for the podium and it seemed the Thunder's chances were dwindling.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook piled on the punches, however, battling their way back up to the Grizzlies, eventually taking a brief lead. Memphis sustained the storm but Oklahoma City had another rally in them.
Down five points, Russell Westbrook was denied space and nearly turned the ball over from Memphis pressure, but managed to dish the ball to the corner to Kevin Durant. Marc Gasol closed out on Durant's shot, fouling him as he released. Incredibly, impossibly, the ball fell through the hoop and Durant hit the ensuing free throw to make it a one-point game.
Mike Conley made one of this two free throws with 12 seconds left, leaving the Thunder with the last possession needing just two points. Russell Westbrook went for the win, missing on a long three but Kendrick Perkins grabbed the offensive rebound and put it up immediately to send it to overtime with no time remaining, as if the universe decided to let Scott Brooks finally get justification for his most maligned rotation decision.
In overtime, it was more of the same brilliantly entertaining, terrific defensive basketball with unrelenting energy. Memphis again jumped out to the lead before a Thunder comeback. Each team's center fouled out in the extra period, taking away one of Memphis' key playmakers in Gasol.
No matter. Tony Allen, defender extraordinaire, showed off some passing chops, dumping the ball to Zach Randolph to put Memphis up, pump faking Serge Ibaka into the air.
Ibaka erred on the other side of the floor, called for a travel. Westbrook fouled on Memphis' inbounds and the Grizzlies went up four with 20 seconds left. But after watching this game, you almost expect the Thunder to pull that lead back in, too.
Unfortunately for our viewing pleasure, they couldn't. The Thunder ultimately lost by six as their shots fell upon iron and they had to foul. Regardless, this was everything you could ask for in a playoff game.