“We knew those balls were going to be coming long for those 3-point shooters who were shooting,” said Grizzlies guard Tony Allen. “All we had to do was pretty much box out … We were just trying to be the first to put the butts to the bottom and box out and dive for those loose balls when they were out there.”
Allen gobbled up a game-high five offensive rebounds, three less than the Thunder had. His play characterized what could be a concern for the Thunder going forward. Ten of the Grizzlies' 16 offensive rebounds were grabbed by wing players. There was a systemic reason for that.
OKC's big men are being taken out of the action. Ibaka is almost literally wresting with Randolph to keep him off the glass, and Perkins is being pulled 17 feet away from the basket to defend Gasol. That's leaving the job of rebounding up to the Thunder's wing players.
Kevin Durant has chipped in, pulling down 26 rebounds in these first two games. But the other perimeter players must make it a point from here out to do more. Kevin Martin did just that in Game 1, grabbing all seven of his rebounds on the defensive end. It helped the Thunder out-rebound the Grizzlies, 43-41.
But on Tuesday night, Martin, Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha combined for just nine rebounds. On too many possessions, the Thunder's perimeter players stood in place and watched shots, which put them in poor position of chasing down misses.
This is exactly how the most pivotal play of the game shook out.
With the Grizzlies nursing a tenuous four-point lead inside the final minute, the Thunder's defense shut down each of Memphis' go-to-options. OKC lived with a corner 3 from Allen, a player who had missed 20 of 22 playoff 3-pointers in his career.
But when Martin ran toward the rim, appearing unsure of whether to help Ibaka sandwich Randolph or focus on his own man, forward Tayshaun Prince, he ended up doing neither. Martin was in no man's land as the ball bounced into Prince's hands.
Instead of getting possession with a chance to close within two or one inside the final 30 seconds, the Thunder watched Conley split a pair of free throws and put Memphis ahead by five.