MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Just when the Thunder appeared to be headed for a feel-good, bounce-back victory in a road game that had little going right, Marc Gasol, one of Oklahoma City's oldest nemeses, came out of nowhere just in the nick of time and extended the misery.
One night after a stunning home loss against Denver, the Thunder traveled to Memphis and suffered a 90-89 overtime defeat on Wednesday inside FedExForum.
Calculating the magnitude of this latest loss ultimately is a subjective exercise. On one hand, there's the glass-half-full view, the one that give the Thunder credit for fighting on the second night of a back-to-back and overcoming a physical, playofflike intensity and the worst shooting night of the season to make things interesting.
Then there's the ugly truth.
The Thunder fell to 11-5 since the All-Star break and is now just 3-7 against San Antonio, Denver and Memphis, the three teams other than the Thunder with the best records in the Western Conference. Not to mention an 0-2 mark against defending champ Miami.
“Obviously, it would have been a nicer flight to come away with the win,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But this is the NBA. You can't win them all. But you have to compete like that. We all have that choice. We made the choice to compete the way we are capable of competing, and it came down to one play here or there. They made one more than us.”
Gasol converted a tip-in with 0.9 seconds remaining to lift the Grizzlies to their eight victory in 10 games. His putback followed a missed baseline jump shot by teammate Zach Randolph.
After Gasol's shot fell through the net, the Thunder immediately inbounded the ball to Russell Westbrook for a desperation 51-foot heave. Oklahoma City had a 20-second timeout remaining and could have used it before the inbounds pass to advance the ball to half-court.
“We probably should have, there's no question,” Brooks said. “It was a bang-bang play.”
It was the second of two questionable decisions that helped determine the outcome. The first came at the end of regulation, when the Thunder, leading by three with 9.9 seconds remaining, opted to not foul Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless rather than risk Memphis making a 3-pointer.
Bayless then buried it, pump-faking Reggie Jackson at the top of the arc and getting off what was virtually a wide-open look that splashed in with 3.7 seconds left. Kevin Durant then lost the ball while searching for a clean shot in the final seconds of regulation.
“It's not something that we've done in the past,” Brooks said of fouling to prevent a 3-pointer. “NBA players are so good at seeing that and gathering and shooting that basketball. So it's nothing that we've done yet. That's not saying at some time in the future we won't consider that. But it was a situation where we were switching everything, and he made a great play. He made a contested, shot-fake 3. Sometimes you can do all you can do and they made the shot. We live with that.”
Oklahoma City got a game-high 32 points from Durant, but he made just 11 of 28 shots. Westbrook scored 20 but netted just seven of 25 from the field. Their shooting woes, which were largely a result of suffocating defense from Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen, led to the Thunder shooting a season-low 35.7 percent. The Thunder's All-Star duo was just 6-for-19 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Before being bottled up in the final 19 minutes, Durant had scored 15 of the Thunder's 19 third-quarter points. All of them came in succession in the final six minutes of the period and helped the Thunder turn an eight-point deficit into a one-point game going into the final period of regulation.
Durant's 15th and final points of the period came on a short bank shot and gave OKC its first lead of the night at 57-56 with 29.6 seconds remaining in the quarter.
“Early on, I thought we did a pretty respectable job,” said Memphis coach Lionel Hollins. “But then down the stretch the guy just proved who he is. He came out of the phone booth and had his Superman cape on and carried them back to the lead.”
The Thunder wrestled away control in the final five minutes of regulation, going on an 8-1 run to take its largest lead of the night at 78-72 with 1:26 remaining in the fourth. But Memphis extended the game by fouling and, in turn, getting to the foul line three times in the final minute to set up Bayless' game-tying shot.
OKC took the lead first in overtime on a pair of foul shots by Thabo Sefolosha. Westbrook made a driving layup with 13.6 seconds remaining to give the Thunder an 89-88 lead. Randolph then posted up Nick Collison on the right block before turning and missing a contested jump shot.
That's when Gasol darted in for the dagger.
“I thought that Zach's shot was going to go in, but no,” Gasol said. “I just crashed the boards and got lucky.”