Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins mused before Wednesday night's game whether coming off a triple-overtime game would affect his guys more than the Thunder.
“Everybody keeps talking about 22-year-old legs,” he said in a not-so-veiled reference to the Thunder's young stars.
He smiled a bit.
“Hey, 56 minutes is 56 minutes,” he said in a not-so-veiled reference to Kevin Durant, who played that long Monday night.
Hollins didn't sound worried about the Thunder's young legs.
Maybe he should've been.
Thunder 99, Grizzlies 72.
On a night when the momentum in this playoff series swung even more toward Oklahoma City, the boys in blue were the more energetic team. The pep in their step led to a blowout that might just demoralize the Grizzlies.
“You beat good teams by really executing very well and by having good effort,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We did both of them tonight.”
That execution and effort led to easy baskets.
The Thunder scored 46 points in the paint. Those aren't all easy baskets, mind you, but any time you get the ball that close to the rim, you've got a great chance of scoring.
The Thunder converted.
The Thunder had 18 second-chance points. The Grizzlies had nine.
Oklahoma City had 20 fast-break points. Memphis had seven.
“A lot of guys got out in transition because everybody was rebounding the ball tonight,” Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook said. “We got a lot of long-tip rebounds and got out in transition.”
Often, getting to those long boards is all about effort, and often, giving that extra effort is all about having the energy to go a little faster, to reach a little quicker, to fight a little harder.
The Thunder had that extra energy Wednesday night.
Sometimes being the youngest team in the playoffs isn't such a bad thing.
“I don't think fatigue was an issue; it was more our effort,” Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol insisted. “We let down. We started off pretty good, playing intense, helping each other. Then when we got down a little bit, we gave up too easily.”
Then again, when you're worn down, it's a lot easier to let down and give up.
The Grizzlies seemed flat all night. Even when they were controlling the game early, they weren't really dominating. They held the Thunder to only four points in the first seven-plus minutes of the game but never led by more than six points.
“Early on when we had energy, we kept shooting ourselves in the foot by missing layups or turning the ball over,” Hollins said. “That was huge.
“Then as the game went on, they got more physical.”
And his Grizzlies had no fight back.
“Not only were we physically down,” Hollins admitted, “we were probably down a little mentally.”
Here's how out of control this game got — Nate Robinson and Royal Ivey got playing time.
Lots of it.
Neither of the reserve guards had played at all during these playoffs, but both checked in with more than four minutes left in the game.
They were among the reserves who finished a fourth quarter in which the Thunder starters didn't play a single, solitary minute.
You know what that means — those young legs got to rest, got to chill, got a chance to be even little fresher for Game 6. Durant finished the game having played only 30 minutes. Westbrook played 25 minutes. No other starter played more than 22 minutes.
The Thunder will head to Memphis with a shot to clinch the series feeling good both mentally and physically.
“The series is not over by any means,” Hollins contended. “I'm sure a lot of you guys are writing about it being over. I still believe in my team. I'm sure we'll come back and regroup on the flight home and tomorrow and be ready for Friday night.”
Thing is, the Thunder and its young legs will be ready, too.