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Thunder-Grizzlies: How the Thunder offense faltered at closing time

MEMPHIS 111, OKC 105 (OT) — A combination of the Grizzles’ lock-down defense and a stagnant Thunder offense conspired to send the series to Memphis tied 1-1.
by Anthony Slater Published: April 21, 2014

As he staggered toward the deep corner, falling out of bounds and likely taking the Thunder’s faint hopes with him, Kevin Durant threw up a fadeeeeeeawayyyyyy prayer.

Swish. Plus the foul.

Then moments later, following an errant game-winning three attempt by Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins corralled the rebound and tossed in a putback at the buzzer to send it to overtime.

Two miracle plays. Two of the most unlikely shots in Thunder history. And two moments that would be remembered a lot more fondly had OKC not eventually fell 111-105 in overtime on Monday night.

But both also served as perfect examples of what, again, ailed the Thunder on Monday night and stands as a glaring concern as this series moves forward.

Ineffective late-game offense.

Not much movement, not much structure, far too many contested threes. The Thunder lost this game down the stretch because of unstructured offense and a pair of stars who settled for too many deep, guarded threes.

“You have to find a good shot,” Scott Brooks said. “And we didn’t find enough of them.”

In the final six minutes of Monday’s loss – the last minute of regulation and all of overtime – the Thunder made only four of its 12 shots.

Two were well-designed plays, one resulting in a Durant 14-footer over the smaller Courtney Lee and the other a solid pin-down screen which freed Durant for an open three.

But the other two were the miraculous Durant heave and the fortunate Perkins putback, neither of which came off well-designed plays.

“We pressured some passes,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger explained. “Pressured the basketball.”

And he’s right. The Grizzlies tenacious and unrelenting defense had a lot to do with the Thunder’s late struggles. But it seemed that, instead of attacking the physicality, OKC shied away.

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by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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