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VOL. 129 | NO. 79 | Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Joerger Still Floating After Epic Game 2

By Don Wade

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About 12 hours after the Memphis Grizzlies’ epic 111-105 overtime victory at Oklahoma City Monday, April 21, in Game 2 of a first-round Western Conference Playoff series, coach Dave Joerger was still trying to find his voice.

JOERGER

And get his feet all the way back on the ground.

“I’m delirious, you guys,” Joerger said as he met with local media on the Grizzlies’ practice court at FedExForum late Tuesday morning.

But Joerger was smiling as he spoke because his team had evened the series 1-1 after a poor showing in Game 1. Game 3 is at FedExForum on Thursday night, Game 4 is here Saturday night and there will be a Game 5 at OKC. The series will return to Memphis for Game 6 unless one team can now win three straight.

The Grizzlies closed the regular season by winning 14 consecutive home games, but that didn’t make winning Game 2 any less urgent.

“You don’t want to come back down 0-2,” Joerger said.

There were plenty of talking points from Game 2, but the most unexpected had to be the play of veteran point guard Beno Udrih, who scored 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 14 minutes. The Grizzlies signed him as insurance late in the season and the policy has come in handy because rookie back-up point guard Nick Calathes was suspended 20 games by the NBA after testing positive for a substance on the league’s banned drug list.

“Beno’s done a great job staying ready, asked a lot of questions,” Joerger said. “We did some things to take advantage of what he brings to the party. It helped playing some small ball and he and Marc (Gasol) did a great job in pick-and-rolls.”

Kevin Durant scored 36 points for the Thunder, but was just 12-for-28. Tony Allen had the assignment of defending him much of the night and made Durant work.

“He’s just trying to make it tough before the catch,” Joerger said of Allen’s approach on Durant. “And not let him get to spots where he’s comfortable.”

Even so, Durant hit a 3-pointer falling out of bounds near the end of regulation and Gasol was called for a foul. The sequence set up the improbable Kendrick Perkins putback that tied the game and sent it into overtime.

“Crazy shots happen, especially by great players,” Joerger said.

Overall, though, the Grizzlies somewhat contained Durant.

“It’s a team scheme,” Joerger said. “Tony’s on the ball, but he’s got communication behind him (with Zach Randolph and Gasol), ‘I’ve got your right, I’ve got your left.’”

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook scored 29 points, but was just 11-for-28 from the field. The Thunder used 6-7 guard Thabo Sefalosha on the much smaller Mike Conley, and though Conley finished with 19 points and 12 assists, the physical play directed at Conley could be an issue moving forward.

“When we get slow offensively, they can put him in a box with their size,” Joerger said.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks said after Game 2 that the Grizzlies “put their hands on us,” but Joerger didn’t want to respond to that comment, saying, “That’s political.”

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