This time, Mike Conley dominated crunch time. This time, the Grizzlies won the final two minutes.
And now Memphis is in command of this Western Conference semifinal series.
Memphis beat the Thunder 99-93 by dominating down the stretch to win Game 2 Tuesday night and even this Western Conference semifinal at a game apiece.
Conley scored six straight points to wipe out a 90-89 Thunder lead, Kevin Durant failed to duplicate his Game 1 magic and now the series shifts to Memphis, with the Grizzlies going back with the homecourt advantage and the Thunder still learning to play without Russell Westbrook.
The winner of this one looked like it would control the series. And that means Memphis.
The Thunder will have to win in Memphis without the crowd that tried to will it to victory Tuesday night.
The Thunder had its chances. Durant's driving dunk and subsequent 3-point play gave the Thunder an 88-86 lead with 3:18 left. But that was the Thunder's final field goal until Derek Fisher's meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Kendrick Perkins gave OKC its final lead, 90-89, with two foul shots at 2:41, but five straight empty possessions followed for the Thunder.
Memphis defense, the NBA's best, kicked into high gear. Tony Allen dogged Durant, even though Memphis coach Lionel Hollins had said Allen wasn't big enough to guard Durant, and the Grizzlies' big men gave up nothing inside.
Durant missed an open 3-pointer trailing 92-90, then his next two possessions were disastrous – a turnover, then a missed 3-pointer. That spelled doom on a night when Conley rose to the occasion.
Conley was the best player on the court in the final two minutes, time usually reserved for Durant.
Conley's 3-pointer with 1:58 left gave Memphis a 92-90 lead, then his 18-footer made it 94-90 with 1:04 to go.
Conley had 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, spotlighting the difference in point guard play.
With Westbrook out for the playoffs, the Thunder is patchworking its point play. Reggie Jackson had his worst game in the six he's started since Westbrook's injury, with 10 points, three turnovers and two assists. The Thunder had 19 turnovers total.
Conley was superb down the stretch, and if the Thunder doesn't figure out a way to contain him, all the angst over stopping Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will be wasted energy. Stopping Conley will be Key No. 1.
That could mean more Thabo Sefolosha, who played just 23:28 – six teammates played more. Thabo gives the Thunder the best chance at slowing Conley.
Certainly, Hollins made the adjustment by playing Allen more on Durant, and it paid off.
So expect more Thabo in Game 3 Saturday, when the Thunder must try to wrestle away a victory in a series that has turned Memphis' way.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.