Tony Allen scored on a driving layup to open overtime and the Grizzlies held off the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-97 Monday night to push the defending Western Conference champions to the edge of elimination.
The Grizzlies shook off a first half in which they couldn’t hit shots and the Thunder seemingly couldn’t miss in building their largest lead in this series at 17 points.
But Memphis has yet to lose on its home court this post-season and now is 19-1 here since Feb. 8. They won their third straight overall and seventh in eight games to grab a 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven series with a win that left coach Lionel Hollins very impressed with the comeback.
“We are a team that just plays hard and doesn’t quit,” Hollins said. “We scratch. We claw. They said grit and grind. I don’t know what the heck that means, but we go out and we just battle. We compete. We’re not the most talented team that’s in the playoffs when we started out. We’re not the most talented team that’s left in the playoffs. But we go and compete.”
The Grizzlies have won only two playoff series in their rather short history. They know what a 3-1 lead means.
“We have an opportunity in front of us that we can take advantage of,” Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said. “I know our guys are focused. We’re treating it one game at a time. We know they’re going to fight like they have their backs against the wall just like they did tonight. They’re going to play with a sense of urgency, and we have to be ready.”
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, and the Thunder have played in the Western finals each of the past two playoffs. But they don’t have Russell Westbrook in this series, and Kevin Durant hasn’t been able to make the key plays at the end now in three straight games.
“It’s not over yet, and we understand that,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s the first to four. They’re in a good position, but our challenge is not impossible. It’s something that we can do. We just have to focus one possession, one game at a time. Hopefully, we can do that and come back here Friday night. There’s a barbeque festival right?”
The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 9-3 in overtime as Oklahoma City went 1 of 8 from the floor.
Durant scored 27 points. But the man leading the league this post-season in scoring missed all five of his shots in the extra period, including a layup in the final seconds. Durant went 2 of 13 in the fourth quarter and overtime and had only five points. He did score on a driving layup that forced overtime.
The All Star played 48 minutes and was just short on his shots as the game wore on. Asked why he drove for the tying layup in regulation instead of a 3 to win, Durant said he saw a wide-open lane.
“I just went to get as close as I could and try to send it to overtime, which we did,” Durant said. “They made more plays than us in overtime, and they got the win.”
Durant got the help from his teammates that he had been needing. Kevin Martin scored 18 points, Serge Ibaka had his best game of the series with 17 points and 14 rebounds, and Reggie Jackson had 15. Nick Collison even added 10. Even with a break early in the second quarter, Durant played 48 minutes, 19 seconds.
Not that Durant will acknowledge he’s tired.
“Well, it is midnight, and my bedtime is usually around 12 o’clock or so,” Durant said. “I’m a little sleepy because it’s past my bedtime. But other than that, I’m good.”
Conley led Memphis with 24 points and Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each had double-doubles. Randolph had 23 and 12, while Gasol had 23 and 11 along with six blocks on the day the Defensive Player of Year was named to the NBA’s second All-Defensive team along with Conley, who had four steals.
Allen, who finished with 10 points, had three steals on the day he edged LeBron James for most points for the NBA’s All-Defensive team.
In 2011, the Grizzlies were the team that blew the big lead in the first half of Game 4 with the Thunder pulling out the win to even up the series. They also wasted home-court advantage last year in the playoffs in the opening round against the Clippers.
This time, the Thunder were up by as much as 17 in the first half and 12 in the third. But Memphis used a 20-8 run in the third to get back into this game. The Grizzlies had a chance to close out the win when Ibaka blocked a shot by Randolph just before the buzzer in regulation before doing just that in overtime.
“Two years ago when we went three overtimes and we weren’t feeling like this two years ago, so it feels good,” Randolph said. “But we’re focused, and we know what we got to do Wednesday. Come out and play. They’re going to come out and play hard. It’s not over yet.”
But Allen scored to open overtime, then Randolph rebounded a miss by Gasol and scored on a putback. Derek Fisher, who missed his first four shots, finally hit a 3-pointer. But the 38-year-old veteran also had his inbound pass stolen by Allen with 21.1 seconds left and Memphis up 100-97.
“We came up a little short,” Brooks said.
The Thunder spent most of the past two days talking about the need to make shots. They did just that to open the game, hitting three of their first five in scoring the first seven points and led 29-18 at the end of the first quarter for their biggest lead in this series. Ibaka found his shooting stroke after struggling through this series, and he had nine points in the first 12 minutes, including a 3-pointer, with seven rebounds.
Oklahoma City had its biggest lead on a corner 3 by Durant that gave Oklahoma City a 46-29 lead with 4:26 left.
Memphis showed signs of life trimming the Thunder’s lead to 56-48 at halftime. Oklahoma City thought it had a double-digit lead when Ibaka beat the buzzer with a putback off a missed Durant 3. But officials reviewed the play and waved the bucket off.
Tayshaun Prince said the Grizzlies talked at halftime in the locker room happy to get it under 10. The pep talk was simple.
“We just told ourselves: ‘Look, we can’t play no worse than we did in that first half,’” Prince said.
Notes: The Grizzlies sold out their 15th straight post-season game. … All three Grizzlies’ wins in the series have been by six points each. … The Thunder now have lost three straight. They lost three straight only once during the regular season. … The Grizzlies have won 11 games when trailing by at least 17 points since Hollins’ first season as head coach in 2009-10. That’s the most in the NBA in that time.
LeBron James scores 27 points as Heat stifle listless Bulls 88-65, take 3-1 lead in East semis
(PhatzRadio / AP) — CHICAGO – LeBron James and the Miami Heat didn’t even give the Chicago Bulls room to breathe, practically squeezing the playoff life out of them to take a commanding lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.
Another effort like this will seal it.
James scored 27 points and the Heat nearly matched a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a playoff game, pounding the listless and short-handed Bulls 88-65 on Monday night to take a 3-1 lead in the series.
“We worked for it,” said Heat forward Chris Bosh. “I never like to say that things are easy.”
The Heat sure made it look that way, though.
The 65 points allowed were only two more than the all-time post-season low for a Miami opponent, and it was easily the worst offensive performance by a Chicago team in the playoffs.
Never before had the Bulls scored fewer than 69 in a playoff game nor 10 or less in a quarter during the post-season, but both those marks fell on a night when they were dominated on both ends of the floor.
Miami led by 11 at the half and put this one away in the third quarter, outscoring Chicago 17-9 in the period.
Now the Heat will try to wrap up the series at home Wednesday night, taking what they hope will be the next step toward a second straight championship.
It’s hard to believe the Bulls won the series opener the way the past three games have gone.
Miami pounded Chicago in Game 2, coming away with its most lopsided playoff victory while handing the Bulls their worst ever post-season loss — and the Heat continued to roll from there.
James had his usual complete game with eight assists and seven rebounds Monday.
Bosh finished with 14 points after scoring 20 and grabbing 19 rebounds in Game 3, and the Heat won again despite another quiet night from Dwyane Wade (six points), whose right knee was bothering him again. He appeared to aggravate it on a fallaway jumper during the game but was able to return after getting re-taped.
“It’s frustrating at times, but you just try to do what you can,” Wade said.
Norris Cole also struggled with seven points after back-to-back 18-point performances, but the Heat had more than enough in this one.
They shot about 49 per cent while the Bulls set a franchise playoff low at 25.7 per cent. Chicago was particularly bad from the outside, going 2 for 17 from 3-point range.
The Bulls again were missing ailing Luol Deng and injured Kirk Hinrich (calf), and a team that kept finding ways to win despite being short-handed all season simply appeared to run out of steam, even though coach Tom Thibodeau rejected that idea.
“No,” he said. “I think the thing is they’re (Heat) a great team. We have to come out with great intensity — but we also have to make shots.”
There’s no denying the Bulls have been in a tough spot all year with Derrick Rose recovering from knee surgery and just about every other major player sidelined at some point. They’ve been hit particularly hard in the post-season, too.
“They’re in a tough situation,” James said. “They’ve had some injuries and illnesses and whatever’s going on. They don’t have their full roster, but that’s not for us to worry about. They beat a very good Brooklyn team (in the first round) without their full roster.”
Carlos Boozer had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double in the post-season but was just 3 of 14 from the field. Jimmy Butler scored 12 and Joakim Noah grabbed nine rebounds, but it was a miserable night for Chicago — particularly Nate Robinson. With Cole and Mario Chalmers harassing him and the big men helping out, he missed all 12 of his shots and did not score.
He said he fell hard on his left shoulder on a pick-and-roll at one point, although he couldn’t remember exactly when, and had it wrapped in ice afterward. Then he took off the wrapping and threw it hard to the floor.
“Go back to the drawing board and figure it out,” he said.
Richard Hamilton scored 11 points in a rare post-season appearance, and the former All-Star guard made it clear afterward he’s not thrilled with his reduced role.
“Lot of stuff in life you don’t understand,” he said. “This (playoffs) is what I was brought here for. To not be able play and help my teammates, it’s hard, it’s rough. But I try to stay positive. I don’t try to rock the boat.”
Hamilton said he and Thibodeau have talked. Then, he reiterated, “It’s hard to understand.”
James scored 15 points and Bosh added 12 in the first half to help the Heat take a 44-33 lead at the break, but that doesn’t even come close to telling the complete story.
Miami shot just under 53 per cent, with the Bulls at about 27 per cent. Chicago was also 1 of 11 on 3-pointers, and the only conversion from long range came from Hamilton.
“We’re kind of putting screws and bandages everywhere. It’s frustrating,” said Bulls forward Taj Gibson. “Every night and every day.”
Notes: The Heat and Bulls were well represented on the NBA’s all-defensive first team, with James and Noah being selected. … Thibodeau had nothing to say about the $35,000 fine from the league for comments he made about the officiating in Game 3. Asked if he was surprised by the amount, he said, “I’ve got no comment on that. We’re just getting ready for Game 4.” … Deng was listed as active after initially being ruled out for Chicago. Hinrich and Rose were inactive.