This just in. The Memphis Grizzlies play some defense. Tony Allen has taken up residence inside Kevin Durant’s No. 35 jersey. Mike Conley stays in front of his man. Marc Gasol was the reigning NBA defensive player of the year until Monday.
The Grizzlies guard you.
Which means the Thunder better do it, too.
Memphis reversed momentum in this Western Conference playoff series with a 111-105 overtime victory over the Thunder on Monday night, and the Grizzlies did it as much with offense as their beloved defense.
The numbers for the offensively-challenged Grizzlies had to sober up the Thunder: 99 points in regulation, 56 points in the paint, 49.4 percent shooting, baskets on three of their first four possessions of overtime, an easy layup on the game’s pivotal possession.
This game was easy to decipher. The Grizzlies got easier shots than did the Thunder, and even with a magic man like Durant, that will get you beat in the NBA playoffs.
“In the first half, I thought we were a step behind in a lot of plays,” said Scotty Brooks. “We were chasing the basketball instead of containing it. We made some adjustments in the third quarter, then the fourth quarter was a shootout.”
Things got so bad, Foreman Scotty went back to his starting lineup to finish the game, which he rarely has done over the years. The final five minutes of regulation, Brooks used his defensive-heavy starting lineup, except for the 18 seconds, when the Thunder trailed by five and needed offense.
And Brooks stuck with his starters the first 2:42 of overtime, until Kendrick Perkins fouled out.
Don’t blame Brooks. He was tired of a mediocre offense carving up his squad. Point guards Mike Conley and Beno Udrih routinely zipped past the Thunder’s perimeter defenders, Zach Randolph found his shooting touch and Mike Miller got loose for three 3-pointers in just four attempts, including a go-ahead trey from the top of the key when Memphis trailed 93-92 with 53.7 seconds left.
“They got offensive rebounds, got some layins, some miscommunication on our part,” Durant said. “They scored some easy ones.”
The easiest might have come in the final 30 seconds of overtime. With the game tied 105-105, Allen drove into the lane, Serge Ibaka came off Randolph just a little bit, Randolph gave Ibaka a little shove and Allen hit Randolph with a pass for wide-open layup.
Meanwhile, the Thunder was struggling to get open shots. Durant, in particular, made some classics, including a falling-on-his-butt four-point play with 13.8 seconds left in regulation that gave the Thunder hope.
But the Thunder won’t win this series with miracle shots. They’ve got to make the Grizzlies struggle on offense, since the Grizzlies absolutely will make the Thunder do exactly that.
The Thunder knows the Grizzlies well. Knows exactly how tough is Memphis. Knows how tough it is to play in Memphis.
In five playoff games at FedEx Forum, the Thunder has won just once and needed triple overtime to get that victory, back in 2011.
These Grizzlies are made for the playoffs. They slow it down, they play tough, they defend like crazy. Memphis makes it hard to score. If you don’t do the same, you go home.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.