Hard to kill the Thunder.
Like Glenn Close rising out of the bathtub with a knife in “Fatal Attraction.” Like Mike Myers in all 642 “Halloween” horror flicks. Like Batman in “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The left-for-dead Thunder rises with plots you can’t believe but from which you can’t avert your eyes.
Oh, you can eventually slay the Thunder. It’s happened twice in this rousing Western Conference playoff series, which is tied 2-2. But the Thunder doesn’t go easily. Like the bad guys in B Westerns, if they’re going down, it’s going to take all your bullets.
In this grind against the Grizzlies, this series that has exposed far more snares than wares, the Thunder has announced to the world that grit is not the sole property of Memphis. The Thunder has faced deficits of at least four points in the final minute of three straight games. And the Thunder got all three games to overtime.
“We found a way to win, and some nights it’s not going to go our way,” said Kevin Durant. “We just gotta figure it out. It comes down to perseverance and will and heart. All those words that everyone in our locker room has.”
Apparently. In Game 2, the Thunder trailed 98-93 with 20 seconds left. But Durant produced a four-point play while falling out of bounds, then Kendrick Perkins hit a follow shot at the buzzer to force overtime.
In Game 3, Russell Westbrook hit a tying 3-pointer with 52.3 seconds left in regulation, then a tying 4-point play with 26.6 seconds left to again force overtime.
In Game 4, the Thunder trailed 85-80 with a minute left, but Reggie Jackson hit a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, then made a runner with 30.6 seconds left to tie the game.
The Thunder’s offense wasn’t pristine, even in those critical possessions. But it made just enough shots. Its defense wasn’t perfect. But it made enough stops.
The Thunder went on to lose Games 2 and 3. Finally prevailed in Game 4. Who knows if the Thunder offense will snap out of the doldrums that have created three straight sub-.400 shooting percentages? Who knows if the Thunder can keep holding Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to more shots (144) than points (142)?
But this we know, beyond any doubt. The won’t-quit, won’t-sit true-grit Thunder fight to the end.
“They are fighting,” said Memphis point guard Mike Conley. “We have to do the same going back to Oklahoma City."
Some would like the Thunder to play with a sense of urgency before the situation is urgent. But isn’t that counter intuitive? The Thunder hasn’t reached overtime by playing well. The Thunder has reached overtime by playing desperate. Playing desperate is no way to conduct business in the second quarter.
The entire Northern Hemisphere thinks the Thunder is shooting too many 3-point shots, yet 3-pointers in each of those final 60-second sets is what gave OKC life. One by Durant, one (or two) by Westbrook, one by Jackson.
They either believed in their ability to overcome abysmal shooting nights (Westbrook) or kept their poise in the face of frenzy (Durant) or were willing to step into the spotlight and risk the burden of failure (Jackson).
This series has stolen the confidence of even the most lion-hearted players. Yet when things look darkest, the Thunder has swiped it back. The Boomers have gone down, but they haven’t gone down easily. No reason to believe they ever will.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.