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VOL. 129 | NO. 81 | Friday, April 25, 2014

Grizz Overcome Adversity, Go Up 2-1

By Don Wade

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An electrified crowd cheered the Grizzlies to a 98-95 OT win over Oklahoma City Thursday, April 24, in Game 3 of the first-round Western Conference Playoff series. The Grizz enter Saturday's Game 4 at FedExForum up 2-1 in the series.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

During one reality-defying stretch in the first half, Tony Allen and Beno Udrih scored 18 straight points for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Even with that – and a 34-9 edge overall in bench scoring – the Grizzlies would need overtime and have to rally from a three-point deficit in overtime to walk away with a 98-95 victory over Oklahoma City Thursday night at FedExForum to go up 2-1 in their first-round Western Conference Playoff series.

The Grizzlies happened to win their 15th straight home game – a franchise record – but that was really a footnote on this night.

There was a lot of Tony Allen being Tony Allen, 30 points each from the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook – albeit on a combined 19-for-53 (36 percent) shooting – and there was the Grizzlies blowing a 17-point lead over the last 7:44 of regulation to make overtime necessary in the first place.

“They stayed together and handled adversity,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said.

Adversity, of course, starts with Durant and Westbrook. As Joerger said, the Grizzlies “contained” them.

“I thought we did OK,” he said. “They didn’t have 40 apiece.”

Allen scored 16 points off the bench with nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, and nearly inspired several heart attacks, including fouling Westbrook near the end of regulation as he sank a three-pointer; Westbrook hit the free throw and the game went into overtime at 85-85.

“People are going to see the highlight (of that play), but the guy did 99 percent of everything on the floor and it was spectacular,” Joerger said of Allen.

In fact, Allen actually gave the Grizzlies a four-point lead late in regulation with a dunk and a picking of Westbrook’s pocket and going in for a layup. He sort of gave those four points back, but that’s a night at The Grindhouse with The Grindfather.

“I’m just a basketball player and I try to make basketball plays,” Allen said. “I try to make the right ones, but some plays are better than others.”

The Grizzlies also won in overtime, 111-105, in Game 2. They had fallen behind by 25 points in Game 1 at Oklahoma City but roared back to get within two points before running out of steam and losing by 14. The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 31-13 in that third quarter and if the Thunder didn’t realize it then, the Grizzlies found something positive to hang onto.

“That third quarter in Game 1 showed us what we were capable of doing,” Conley said.

Certainly, it’s no secret how the Grizzlies are trying to defend the Thunder.

“Pretty much make the Derek Fishers of the world, the Caron Butler, (Thabo) Sefolosha … make those guys beat us,” Allen said.

In Game 3, the Thunder’s 3-point shooting was especially atrocious as they hit just 5-of-28 for 17.9 percent. Durant, 10-for-27 overall, finished 0-for-8 from long range. Westbrook, 9-for-26 from the floor, was 4-for-13 from 3-point range.

Also problematic for Oklahoma City: finishing with 13 assists and 16 turnovers and giving up 22 points off the turnovers.

“When you shoot 39 percent, there aren’t many assists to throw around,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

“Personally, I think we missed a lot of good looks,” said Durant.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies outscored the Thunder in the paint 62-48. Forward Zach Randolph had 16 points, 10 rebounds and a team-high six assists. Center Marc Gasol had 14 points and eight rebounds and backup point guard Beno Udrih scored 12 points in 14 minutes, giving him 26 points in his last 28 minutes in the series.

“Beno’s been awesome and there was no drop-off when the starters came out,” Conley said. “(The bench) actually picked us up and played better.”

Conley sparked the Grizzlies in the overtime, scoring five straight points on a 3-pointer and layup to give Memphis a 92-88 lead. Guard Courtney Lee held off the Thunder by hitting three foul shots in the final 10 seconds.

Durant and Westbrook had just five assists between them and Durant says they know that must change.

“We own up to it,” Durant said. “We’ve got to get guys involved. We’ll take that on our shoulders.”

As for coming back in the series, the Thunder can draw on the 2011 conference semifinals against Memphis that they won in seven games.

“We have been down 2-1 before against this team,” Durant said.

“The series is far from over,” Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said. “There is a lot of basketball left to be played.”

Especially if games keep going into overtime. Durant scored seven of the Thunder’s 10 points in overtime, but Westbrook scored just one point and went 0-for-7 from the floor. Their chance for redemptions comes Saturday night when Game 4 will be played at FedExForum.

“It’s the playoffs,” Conley said. “They’re going to make runs and they’re going to make plays. They have two of the best players in the league, so they’re going to make plays down the stretch. We have to be prepared for that. I thought we handled it, regardless of the situation.”

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