MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Kevin Durant was as focused as he's ever been before a game.
Answers during his customary pre-game chat with the media shrunk shorter. A slight attitude had replaced Durant's inviting and personable personality.
The magnitude of the moment had become a reality.
“This is a must-win,” Durant said.
Four hours and three overtimes later, Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates more than earned it.
Durant scored 35 points to lead the Thunder past the Memphis Grizzlies in a hard-fought 133-123 triple overtime thriller inside the FedExForum in Game 4. The win evened the series at two games apiece as the best-of-7 series now shifts back to Oklahoma City for Game 5.
Though it took much longer than it should have, the Thunder accomplished its stated goal of regaining home court advantage by stealing at least one game here. The Thunder returned the favor of delivering the Grizzlies the same type of disheartening home defeat that Memphis dealt Oklahoma City in Game 1. It was the Grizzles first home loss in five games in these playoffs. The win also came two days after the Thunder surrendered a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead in Game 3.
Most importantly, the victory gives the Thunder a leg up on advancing to the Western Conference Finals, where Dallas is waiting and resting. The series essentially is now a best-of-3 competition, with the Thunder hosting two contests, Game 5 on Wednesday and, if necessary, Game 7 on May 17, at home.
Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 40 points to lead the Thunder. But it was Durant's shake-and-bake jumper on Shane Battier from the top of the key with 29.3 seconds remaining in the final extra period that served as the dagger that followed so many incredible sequences.
The Thunder clawed back from an 18-point first-half deficit and showed it too is a resilient bunch. Oklahoma City moved to 24-6 after a loss this year by outscoring the gritty Grizzlies 14-4 in the third overtime.
There were 13 lead changes and nine ties, all coming after intermission. There were game-tying 3-pointers by Memphis, and clutch and critical responses by the Thunder. Five players logged at least 50 minutes.
“Words can't describe the emotions that went through our team throughout the game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Postgame Thoughts: What did you think?
Box Score: Thunder wins 133-123