The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

May 11, 2013

Thunder offense stumbles in Memphis rumble as Grizzlies take 2-1 series lead

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Serge Ibaka missed not one, but two dunks. He missed layups and even a couple short jumpers and longer wide-open looks.

And most of his teammates weren’t much better.

The Oklahoma City Thunder shot 36.4 percent from the field on Saturday, including only one field goal in the final 3 minutes, losing to the Memphis Grizzlies 87-81 in the Western Conference semifinals. It was their worst scoring and shooting performance this postseason.

Memphis now has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 here on Monday night.

“Everything was good other than we couldn’t make a basket,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said after his team shot 33 percent in the second half, including 20 percent in the third frame. “Eighty-eight shot attempts and we got pretty good looks. We missed a couple of easy, easy, easy (baskets). I wish we could get those same shots.”

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 25 points, but was only 9 of 19 in one of his lowest-scoring performance of the post season. He went 3 for 11 in the second half when Memphis guard Tony Allen hounding him most of the time.

“It’s not one-on-one defense,” Durant said. “He’s a great defender. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s the Grizzlies’ team defense. I need to make the right plays for my team.”

Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City’s replacement at point guard for the injured Russell Westbrook, scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Ibaka and Kevin Martin both scored 13 points. Ibaka also grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots.

But Ibaka struggled from the field, going 6 for 17, and the missed dunks weren’t his only shooting issues.

“We have to continue to give him confidence and continue to build him up,” Durant said of Ibaka. “He missed few blocks, a few layups and a few open jump shots. I have to pick him up, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

The Thunder’s shooting woes was just part of the sloppy game from both teams in a game with very little flow and the pace more conducive to Memphis’ style. Still, the Thunder controlled the boards 44-41, including a 14-5 advantage on the offensive glass. And Oklahoma City also held a 44-30 advantage in the paint — all categories that Memphis usually wins.

The Thunder seemed to be in position when Derek Fisher connected on his only 3-pointer of the night with 1:58 left to tie the game at 81.

Oklahoma City would not score again, missing three shots down the stretch. While that was bad, the key was Durant.

The 91 percent free throw shooter in the regular season missed two with 39.3 seconds left and the Grizzlies leading 85-81.

Meanwhile, Memphis hit all six of its free throws in the final 1:03 to take the lead in the series.

“That’s playoff basketball,” Brooks said. “Like I said, we put ourselves — all three games — to be in the game, to win the game. We’ve won one and lost two.

“We’ve got to strap it up, and come Monday and compete the way we’ve competed in the last three games.”

Marc Gasol scored 20 points and hit two free throws with 1:03 left to put Memphis ahead to stay. Gasol scored 16 in the second half, and the Grizzlies hit all six at the line in the final 1:03 to clinch the win and remain unbeaten at home in the postseason.

“We just stayed after it like we’ve done all year long,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “It’s not always pretty. Tonight wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty for us because we got the win.”

Tony Allen had his best game in this series, scoring 14 points for Memphis. Jerryd Bayless added 11. Zach Randolph scored only eight points but had 10 rebounds.

“It was definitely a good feeling because we didn’t play the best Grizzlies’ basketball that we know we can play as a team,” Randolph said.

Notes: DeAngelo Williams, the former Memphis running back now with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, and rapper Lil Wayne had courtside seats with Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones also on hand. ... Durant extended his streak with 20 or more points to 35 straight playoff games. ... Durant had his second-lowest scoring game this postseason, a point off the 24 he had in the opener against Houston. ... The Thunder went 17-4 after a loss in the regular season. ... The Grizzlies had their 14th straight postseason sellout. .. Memphis now is 18-1 at home since Feb. 8.

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