The Memphis Grizzlies got what they came for.
After a 99-93 victory over the Thunder in Game 2 on Tuesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Grizzlies stole home-court advantage away from the Thunder and knotted the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
Game 3 is on Saturday afternoon in Memphis.
Kevin Durant continued his marvelous postseason, scoring a game-high 36 points with 11 rebounds and nine assists. But he again had little help on the offensive end. Derek Fisher scored 19 points off the bench.
Durant and Fisher combined to make 17 of 30 shots.
Every other Thunder player combined to shoot 13-for-40.
Mike Conley shook off a subpar performance in Game 1 to lead the Grizzlies with a team-high 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Grizzlies center Marc Gasol scored 24 points with five rebounds and five assists. Zach Randolph added 15 points, and Tony Allen finished with 12.
Turnovers and rebounding ultimately doomed the Thunder.
Oklahoma City came away clean in both categories in Game 1, when the Thunder out-rebounded the Grizzlies by two and allowed only eight offensive rebounds while turning it over just 10 times.
Tuesday night was a totally different story.
The Thunder was out-rebounded 43-35 and allowed 16 offensive rebounds. Memphis converted those rebounds into 23 second-chance points.
“We gave up too many offensive rebounds and second chance points,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “The game before, we did an outstanding job.”
This time, the Thunder had more turnovers by halftime than it did in all of Game 1. By the final buzzer, Oklahoma City had 21 turnovers, leading to 29 Grizzlies points.
“We do a better job in those two areas and we're still in the game,” Brooks said. “Those are areas that are correctable. Those are areas that we can get better at going into next game. Those are two important areas.”
Ironically, the Thunder finally avoided starting the game slowly. After being outscored 147-88 since Game 2 in the first five minutes of the first and third periods, the Thunder never allowed the Grizzlies to take control early. This time, the score was tied at nine after the first five minutes, although both teams struggled to put the ball in the hole.
Oklahoma City's early issue in this one was ball security. The Thunder turned it over six times in the opening quarter, which led to 10 Grizzlies points. Memphis turned it over just twice, leading to only one point for the Thunder. Despite misfiring on 10 of 16 shots, the Thunder trailed 23-21 after the opening period.
Memphis took a 54-51 halftime lead in spite of much better shooting from the Thunder, which made nine of 15 field goals in the second quarter. But turnovers continued to plague OKC. Five more turnovers in the second period resulted in another five Grizzlies points. Subpar defensive rebounding also snuck up on the Thunder, as the Grizzlies grabbed seven offensive rebounds in the second quarter and watched them lead to nine second-chance points.
A loss of focus in the final three minutes of the first half burned the Thunder and turned a five-point lead into the three-point halftime deficit. Memphis hauled in six of its seven second-quarter offensive rebounds in those final three minutes. Five came on two trips.
By the end of the third quarter, there were 22 lead changes, which summed up just how much of a see-saw affair the second half became.
Durant capped the quarter with five points in the final eight seconds. After a crossover at the top of the arc on Quincy Pondexter, Durant worked his way into the lane before throwing down a vicious one-handed dunk over Darrell Arthur. Following a pair of foul shots by Jerryd Bayless, Durant was fouled by Arthur near halfcourt while in the process of shooting with 0.9 seconds left. He made both free throws, giving the Thunder a 74-69 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Brooks boldly sat Durant at the start of the fourth period despite having few other reliable scoring options. It was a decision that didn't take long to backfire, as the Grizzlies started the final frame on a 5-0 run to tie the game 35 seconds in.
It was a back-and-forth game from there, and the Thunder never led by more than two again.
Now, the Thunder must go to Memphis and try to do what the Grizzlies just did.
“It's the first team to four,” Brooks said. “It's 1-1. They did a great job. They came into our building and got a win. Now we have to go into their building and get a win. Is it impossible? Absolutely not.”