A pick-pocket steal and break-away dunk to tie the game with only a few seconds left.
A basket at the buzzer that didn’t quite get off in time and sent the game to overtime.
An overzealous official icing a superstar on a critical free throw late in overtime.
Another basket at the buzzer, this one a put-back tip-in, that didn’t count.
Any one of those highlights would make for quite a moment. It would be replayed again and again. It would be remembered forever. But Tuesday night at The Peake, the Thunder and the Grizzlies provided all of those memorable moments and then some.
And some people say TV dramas are dead.
Memphis 100, OKC 99
Welcome to the biggest drama of these NBA Playoffs. Heck, this might be the wildest series that the league has seen in years. Decades, even. Tuesday was the fourth consecutive overtime game in this series.
“Four straight overtimes, that’s good basketball,” Thunder superstar Kevin Durant said. “We lost three of them. That’s the worst part.”
Oh, the drama.
Maybe if the NBA had been in Oklahoma City for decades and decades, we would see this as just another playoff series. One big play after another. Four overtime games in nine nights. Ho hum.
But it sure doesn’t seem like that would happen.
“I’ve never been around four overtime games in a row,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who’s been around the league for a couple decades.
This playoff series has captivated the entire nation. Late in regulation and in overtime Tuesday, social media was going crazy with people talking about the Thunder and the Grizzlies. Even in Los Angeles on the day that Donald Sterling was banned for life from the NBA and the Clippers and Warriors played the fifth game of their highly competitive series, folks were watching the Thunder and Grizzlies.
And they got a show.
With less than 10 seconds left in regulation, the Thunder trailed by two points and the Grizzlies had the ball. Memphis point guard Mike Conley dribbled at the top of the key. Things were dire for the Thunder.
Then out of nowhere, Russell Westbrook swooped in. He poked the ball away from Conley, a textbook pick-pocket steal, scooped up the ball and drove the length of the court for a dunk.
But Memphis set up a slick play that got Zach Randolph a shot at the buzzer that dropped through the hoop. The officials waived off the basket as coming after the buzzer but went to the replay to make sure.
Sure enough, no basket.
The overtime was more drama, with bit actor Mike Miller making an appearance. The veteran sharpshooter hit the Grizzlies’ first two baskets of the overtime, threes that were reminiscent of his big spot duty in the NBA Finals when he was with the Heat a few years back.
But the Thunder battled back and looked ready to tie the game again with Durant at the line. After hitting the first of two free throws, he held the ball in his hands for the second free throw when referee Joey Crawford charged up the lane and demanded the ball back.
“I looked at KD and we were like, ‘What is Joey doing?’” Conley said.
Crawford wanted the scoreboard operator to make sure the proper number of team fouls were on the scoreboard. It’s a small thing, something he could’ve fixed later but something that he had every right within the rules to stop and rectify, but it will certainly add to Thunder fans’ disdain for the cue-ball headed Crawford.
He iced Durant.
“I was just trying to stay focus and knock the free throw down,” Durant said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t.”
But after a Memphis miss, OKC had one more shot. Durant clanked a three, but Serge Ibaka got a hand on the miss and tipped it back toward the basket. The ball fell through the hoop as the buzzer sounded. The Thunder mobbed Ibaka, and The Peake erupted.
The officials reviewed it and quickly determined that the ball was still touching Ibaka’s finger tips when the light around the backboard went on.
“They’re doing training on our coaching staff right now, too, because we’re all sweating through” dress shirts and suit jackets, Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.
I’m sure there have been better playoff series in the history of the NBA. All those years that the Celtics and Lakers battled, then all those years that the Bulls duked it out with the Pistons and the Knicks, there had to have been a series like this.
But there couldn’t have been one any better.
Episode 6 of this must-see-TV drama is Thursday in Memphis.
Don’t miss it.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.