MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Reggie Jackson called them boneheaded plays.
There were two of them, in the span of 41 seconds, and if Jackson could take them back you know he would.
“Do it differently,” Jackson said, “and it might be a different story, a different headline.”
Instead, Oklahoma City fell into a 2-1 hole after watching Game 3 go to the Grizzlies, 87-81, on Saturday inside FedExForum because one mental mistake after another in the final 91 seconds prevented the Thunder from overcoming a horrendous shooting night and riding yet another stellar Kevin Durant performance to a mandatory road win.
Jackson's mistakes were just two of six plays that were either lapses in judgment or execution by the Thunder in that game-deciding final minute and a half.
They started after Derek Fisher drilled a 3-pointer to tie the score at 81-all with 1:58 left to play. It was the first time the Thunder had pulled within a tie since the 8 1/2-minute mark of the third quarter. Momentum was with OKC, and the Thunder appeared ready to regain home-court advantage.
That's when Jackson caught an outlet pass from Serge Ibaka and triggered the late-game tailspin. The second-year point guard raced up the court determined to give the Thunder the lead himself despite teammates flanking him. But he botched the bucket and barreled over Mike Conley for a charge.
“I never use that as an excuse, being young,” Jackson said. “Experience is a good teacher, but you got to know better. I had a teammate running with me … I just got to make the right play and hit Fish. I don't attribute that to being young; just a dumb, boneheaded play.”
It was the first of two that overshadowed and otherwise tremendous effort from Jackson, who scored 16 points with 10 rebounds and two assists. The charge was his lone turnover in 38 minutes.
“He was aggressive,” Durant said. “People don't realize this is his first time playing in the playoffs. He's like a rookie. So he's learning along the way. He's done a great job for us, just being aggressive. And in that fourth quarter he brought us back in the game and tied it up for us and made some big plays. So we got to be patient with Reggie Jackson. He's going to learn and get better.”
Memphis center Marc Gasol made a pair of free throws at the other end to start a 6-0 run the Grizzlies used to end the game.
Before the final buzzer, the Thunder missed three shots, two free throws and watched two offensive rebounds slip through Serge Ibaka's fingertips. Only one of the shots, a hurried 28-foot 3-point attempt by Fisher, was a questionable decision.
Shockingly, the missed foul shots belonged to Durant, who again valiantly did it all without the services of sidekick Russell Westbrook. Durant scored 25 points with 11 rebounds, earning him game-high honors in both categories, and dished five assists with three steals in 46 minutes.
But Durant's finish was borderline brutal. He also missed a 7-footer that would have tied the game with 56 seconds remaining, and after making six of his first eight shots Durant finished 3-for-11 from the floor.
Immediately after Durant’s missed jumper, Jackson fouled Conley 80 feet away from the basket, almost at the exact same time that Thunder coach Scott Brooks stood near the scorer’s table screaming at Jackson not to foul. It was the Thunder’s second foul in the final two minutes, which automatically awarded Memphis two free throws. Conley made both.
“I seen (Quincy) Pondexter wasn’t looking,” Jackson explained. “He was just going to throw it to Conley. I tried to get a steal. As my hand was still in there, Conley did a great job of locking it up and drawing the foul. So that was a good play on his behalf.”
Brooks, as he generally does, refused to blame the loss on Jackson’s admitted ill-advised plays.
“He had a great game,” Brooks said. “Unfortunately that (charge) was a mistake that he wishes he could get back. But that one play did not decide the game.”
The team’s paltry accuracy in the previous 47 minutes was much more significant.
The Thunder shot just 36.4 percent — 33.3 percent in the second half — and again got little help from role players. Jackson, who made seven of 15 shots, was the only Thunder player other than Durant to make at least 40 percent of his shots.
Everyone else combined to go 16 of 54 (29.6 percent) from the field.
“It's frustrating, but we can't hang our heads,” Durant said. “We just got to keep playing and keep improving. Just learn from it. Embrace the tough times and get better from it.”