The Memphis Grizzlies head into Game 5 of their NBA first-round round confrontation with the Oklahoma City Thunder determined to look ahead. That is what you have to do in these series, which can ebb and flow in dramatic fashion.
Tied 2-2, Memphis came so tantalizingly close on Saturday night to writing a 3-1 script for the game Tuesday night at Chesapeake Arena in OKC. With the FedExForum filled to the rafters – including new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who had his hands full fielding questions about the racist remarks linked to Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald Sterling – the Grizz and Thunder battled into their third straight overtime, with the Thunder squeaking out the win, 92-89
With Memphis braced for a two-star surge from OKC's Durant and Russell Westbrook, reserve guard Reggie Jackson turned out to be the most pressing problem. Jackson, who had not asserted himself before Game 4, scored 32 points, racked 9 rebounds to propel the Thunder.
For the Grizzlies, center Marc Gasol worked for 23 points and 11 rebounds. Starting point guard Mike Conley scored 14 points and engineered 10 assists, with Tony Allen matching Conley's point total and contributing 13 rebounds. Zach Randolph was held to 11 points and seven rebounds.
Memphis fans were in shouting range of a commanding 3-1 series lead late in the fourth quarter. Powered by a 28-11 un, Memphis led 80-75 with 1:20 left but could not contain the Thunder and stop a surge that resulted in a 80-80 tie at the end of regulation.
The emotion-laiden loss ended Memphis' 15-game home winning streak. Poor free-throw shooting contributed to the outcome. Memphis hit only 13-of-23 shots as the Thunder sank 18-of-20. The Grizzlies' .565 percentage was the second-lowest in team playoff history.
As for rebounding, Memphis came up short there too, with OKC outrebounding the Grizz 58 to 49. The Grizzlies have lost the rebounding battle in each of the four games.
Memphis by nine (58-49) and have outrebounded the Grizzlies in each of the first four games of the series.
"We had our chances tonight," said Conley. "We held two of their best scorers to where we want them to be. We just couldn't stop Reggie Jackson making plays at the end of the game."
"They're fighting. We've got to do the same when we go back to Oklahoma City."
Allen called Jackson the "X" factor and said Memphis would have to plan better.
"There's no such thing as moral victories. We take our hats off to that team, they are a good team. And now it's an even series and we have to get our focus on Game 5 and be better down the stretch. This is the fourth time in a row that we gave up the lead. We had and it was just a meltdown defensively. We've got to be better as a team."